NEAR Shoemaker's Laser Rangefinder Surveys Eros
October 27, 2009
NEAR Shoemaker's Laser Rangefinder is the spacecraft's precision topographic surveyor. Once per second it emits a burst of laser light and measures the time until it receives a reflection, providing an extremely accurate reading of the distance between the spacecraft and a point on the asteroid's surface. Combined with radio tracking and optical navigation information on the spacecraft's orbital position, the distance measurements help create a profile of Eros' topography. The data in this figure were taken April 26, 2000, when NEAR Shoemaker was orbiting at an altitude of 51 kilometers (32 miles). The white line on the picture shows the location of the profile, and the graph shows the differences in elevation along the line. The letters "a" through "e" indicate position of index marks for reference. The profile crossed several boulders a few meters in height, as well as a small, well-preserved crater (at the location marked "c").
Topics: Discovery program, NEAR Shoemaker, Space exploration, Shoemaker, Laser rangefinder, 433 Eros, Asteroid, Laser, Spacecraft