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  About LOLA

The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) investigation will provide a precise global lunar topographic model and geodetic grid that will serve as the foundation of this essential understanding.

Building on our previous experiences on the Moon and Mars, we now know that topography at scales from local to global is necessary for landing safely. It preserves the record of the evolution of the surface which contributes to decisions as to where to explore.

The topographic model provided by LOLA will be at a level that will allow safe landings and enhance exploration - driven mobility once on the lunar surface.

  Measurement Goals

  • Produce a high-resolution global topographic model and global geodetic framework that enables precise targeting, safe landing, and surface mobility to carry out exploratory activities.
  • Characterize the polar illumination environment, and image permanently shadowed polar regions of the Moon to identify possible locations of surface ice crystals in shadowed polar craters.

Image of LOLA Engineering Model

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  Principal Investigator

  • , Solar System Exploration Division, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt MD
  • , Dept. of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston MA


The LOLA instrument pulses a single laser through a Diffractive Optical Element (DOE) to produce five beams that illuminate the lunar surface. For each beam, LOLA measures time of flight (range), pulse spreading (surface roughness), and transmit/return energy (surface reflectance). With its two-dimensional spot pattern, LOLA unambiguously determines slopes along and across the orbit track.

LOLA illustration

Image above : LOLA instrument Artist Rendering.

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