The LIght Detection And Ranging sensor (LIDAR) or laser altimeter measures the time
for a single pulse of laser light to travel between the HAYABUSA spacecraft and the
surface of Itokawa, and back. Knowing the speed of light, a distance between the
spacecraft and asteroid surface can be determined. By combining such LIDAR ranging
data and images obtained by the optical navigation camera, the navigation system on
board of the HAYABUSA spacecraft can accurately estimate its position relative to the
The LIDAR data will ultimately provide detailed surface topography and a 3-dimensional
shape model of the asteroid. Such topography is obtained when the LIDARfs laser
encounters, for example, a depression on the surface of the asteroid.In this case the
the range measured between the spacecraft and surface is slightly enhanced. On the
other hand, if the LIDARfs laser encounters a boulder, its measured range will become
shorter. By compiling such information over the entire asteroid, a shape model of
Itokawa can be obtained.
Figure shows a data cloud of LIDAR measurements on the surface of the asteroid
since our arrival at Itokawa. These data are plotted on a shape model obtained using
ground-based radar observations  generated prior to the arrival of HAYABUSA at
Itokawa. As the HAYABUSA spacecraft is usually located on the equatorial plane of
Itokawa, we have already obtained sufficient ranging data to model the asteroidfs
equatorial shape. However, this is not the case at the poles, where few data exist.
The best LIDAR-based models currently generate an elongated shape of Itokawa, with
some thinning near one of its ends. This thinning provides some evidence for the
characteristic neck of the asteroid, a conspicuous feature seen in the pictures taken
by the HAYABUSA imager.
A full reconstruction of this neck feature is not yet possible with the LIDAR data
because the low data density at the poles. We are currently continuing observations of
the asteroid to further improve LIDAR coverage, which, with additional data analysis and
optical navigation, will generate a better shape model of Itokawa.
 Ostro,S.J., Benner L.A.M., Nolan M.C., Magri C., Giorgini J.D., Scheeres D.J.,
Broschart S.B., Kaasalainen M., Vokrouhlicky' D., Chesley S.R., Margot J.L., Jurgens R.F.,
Rose R., Yeomans D.K., Suzuki S., and De Jong E.M. (2004) Radar observations of
asteroid 25143 Itokawa (1998 SF36). Meteoritics & Planetary Science 39:407-424.