APL’s long heritage of space technology innovation reaches back six decades, and includes building more than 300 specialized instruments. APL instruments have provided the first images of Saturn’s magnetic field; contributed to the discovery of ancient water across Mars, delivered the first close-up views of Pluto and its moons; and helped determine when humankind – through Voyager 1 – left the solar system for the first time.
APL optical instruments range from telescopic cameras that deliver high-resolution images of worlds across the solar system, to imaging spectrometers that can “read” hundreds of colors in reflected sunlight to detect the mineral makeup of a planet’s surface.
APL develops devices – like highly sensitive mass spectrometers – that can determine a charged particle’s elemental composition by measuring how long it takes the particle to fly through the instrument.
Gamma-Ray and Neutron Instruments
Gamma-ray spectroscopy can infer composition tens of inches beneath a planetary body, either remotely from orbit or while sitting directly on the surface, and quantify the elements present throughout that depth.
APL develops radar and other sensors to map surfaces and assess conditions on and above our Moon and other worlds.