Advancements in Lidar Technology Revolutionize Space Exploration
Smaller, lighter, and more versatile tools are the key to unlocking the mysteries of space. NASA has been at the forefront of developing lidar technology, which plays a crucial role in aiding scientists and explorers in remote sensing, surveying, mapping, 3D-image scanning, hazard detection, and navigation. By utilizing light pulses to accurately measure distances and object properties, lidar technology is revolutionizing space exploration.
Foldable, Flat Lidar Optics: Reducing Costs and Increasing Efficiency
Research engineer Mark Stephen from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed an innovative solution to the size, weight, and power limitations of traditional lidar systems. He has created foldable, flat lidar optics that incorporate deployable, segmented telescopes with state-of-the-art flat-panel optics. Inspired by origami, these panels fold into compact shapes, providing the benefits of lidar technology while reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
The use of nano-structured materials in flat optics allows for the manipulation of individual photons, performing functions similar to bulkier lenses and mirrors but in a lightweight, flat-panel design. This advancement in lidar technology enables the creation of a family of instruments with greater flexibility, balancing size, weight, power, and performance to suit the specific needs of each space mission.
CASALS: Concurrent Artificially Intelligent Spectrometry and Adaptive Lidar System
Goddard engineer Guangning Yang is working on another innovative approach to lidar technology with CASALS. This system produces multiple wavelengths of light from a single laser pulse, eliminating the need for multiple beams of the same wavelength to increase accuracy. By rapidly changing the laser’s wavelength, CASALS allows different wavelengths of light to sweep across the target at various angles, making it more efficient and smaller than conventional lidar instruments.
Revolutionizing Scientific Research and Exploration
These advancements in lidar technology, such as foldable, flat optics and wavelength scanning, open up new possibilities for scientific research and exploration. Cheryl Gramling, assistant chief for technology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, believes that these advancements will revolutionize the way we navigate and understand distant worlds and celestial bodies.
With lidar technology becoming smaller, lighter, and more versatile, NASA is paving the way for more efficient and cost-effective space missions. The ability to accurately measure distances, map terrains, and detect hazards will greatly enhance the exploration of new frontiers. By continuously pushing the boundaries of lidar technology, NASA is bringing us closer to unlocking the secrets of the universe.