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The Apollo lunar sounder radar system

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8 Author(s)
Porcello, Leonard J. ; Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. ; Jordan, R.L. ; Zelenka, J.S. ; Adams, G.F.
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The objectives of the Apollo 17 Lunar Sounder Experiment (ALSE) were to detect subsurface geologic structures, to generate a continuous lunar profile, and to image the moon a radar wavelengths. The first objective is generally impossible on Earth, but is possible on the moon because of the very low EM attenuation found in lunar rocks. A three-wavelength synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) operating at 60 m, 20 m, and 2 m (5, 15, and 150 MHz) was designed to attain these objectives. The design choices reflected a balance of scientific requirements versus Apollo mission and hard-ware constraints. The most difficult choice was that of wavelength, since longer wavelengths have the potential for deeper subsurface penetration at the expense of depth resolution. Shorter wavelengths enhance the ability to generate surface images and accurate profiles. The sounding requirement led to a system requirement for large dynamic range and precise sidelobe control. The radar data from the lunar mission were recorded on photographic film in a conventional SAR format, and were returned to Earth for processing. A combination of optical and digital processing and exploitation techniques was applied to the scientific interpretation of the data. Some preliminary results from the lunar mission have been obtained. The system design and data exploitation techniques developed in support of the ALSE experiment show considerable promise for eventual application to earth-resource survey radar systems.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:62 ,  Issue: 6 )