Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sensors Advance Lunar Landing Project

NASA is developing technologies that will allow lunar landers to automatically identify and navigate to the location of a safe landing site while detecting landing hazards during terminal descent.

Two critical sensor technologies being developed by NASA Langley Research Center will enable this capability. One is a three-dimensional active imaging device for measuring the topography of a landing area. The second is a device for measuring speed to help land precisely at the chosen site.

To help meet this dual challenge, Langley has designed two special-purpose light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors. In conjunction with this, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing algorithms, or mathematical procedures, for analyzing the terrain based upon these lidar measurements.

These technologies have been integrated as part of NASA's Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) project and are in the process of being demonstrated in a series of flight tests.

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