Mass: 7.4 kilograms (16.3 pounds)
Power: 16.4 watts
Development: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
MLA maps Mercury’s landforms and other surface characteristics using an infrared laser transmitter and a receiver that measures the round-trip time of individual laser pulses. The data will also be used to track the planet’s slight, forced libration – a wobble about its spin axis – which will tell researchers about the state of Mercury’s core.
MLA data combined with Radio Science Doppler ranging will be used to map the planet’s gravitational field. MLA can view the planet from up to 1500 kilometers (930 miles) away with an accuracy of 30 centimeters (about one foot). The laser’s transmitter, operating at a wavelength of 1,064 nanometers, will deliver eight pulses per second. The receiver consists of four sapphire lenses mounted on beryllium structures, a photon-counting detector, a time-interval unit, and processing electronics.