ESA’s Optical Ground Station is 2400 m above sea level on Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands. Visible green laser beams are used for standard laser communication with satellites, for observations of space debris or for finding new asteroids.
ESA has chosen a timer to fly to the Moon’s south pole on Russia’s Luna-27 lander in 2022. A ‘lidar’ – the laser equivalent of radar – will be an essential part of ESA’s autonomous landing and navigation system for Luna-27.
The clock will measure the time light pulses take to return to Luna-27 after bouncing off the surface during landing. This will help to build a 3D map to select the best landing site.