2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:35 AM


SMITH, David E., NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, ZUBER, Maria T., Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT 54-521, Cambridge, MA 02139 and HEAD III, James W., Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Box 1846, Providence, RI 02912, David.E.Smith@nasa.gov

Successful robotic and human exploration of the Moon requires in-depth measurement and understanding of its topography. LOLA, designed primarily for landing site characterization, will also provide high-resolution topographic data critically important to understanding the most fundamental aspects of geological processes such as impact cratering, volcanism, polar processes and tectonic activity. Topography is essential to geological mapping in order to determine stratigraphic relationships and unit thicknesses. Surface slopes and roughness variations provide important insight into regolith formation and evolution as well as exploration planning. Precise determination of topography at the poles permits accurate modeling of permanently shadowed locations serving as potential volatile traps. Regional and global topography, correlated with geology and gravity data, can reveal crustal formation processes, thermal structure and evolution, and mantle thermal state and behavior. Extremely high-resolution topography data can be applied to enhanced interpretation of previous Apollo and related exploration sites, and applied to the choice of new landing sites and planning of surface activities. A precise geodetic framework is essential to the successful execution of all of these endeavors. The Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) investigation, selected for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, will provide a precise global lunar topographic model and geodetic grid that will serve as the foundation for this essential understanding. LOLA data collection will provide 10 cm local topography with 25 meter horizontal positioning in a global center-of-mass coordinate system, a 2-3 order of magnitude improvement over our current knowledge. If ice exists on the surface inside permanently shadowed areas, LOLA will detect a significant increase in return signal strength for all reasonable ice albedos.