Planetary Geology, Geophys & Geochem Lab

Daniel R. Cremons

(Rsch AST, Earth Sciences Remote Sens)

Daniel R. Cremons's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.6722
Org Code: 698
Mail Code 698
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Missions & Projects

Brief Bio

Dr. Cremons designs and builds remote sensing instruments for planetary science applications. He is currently developing spectroscopic lidars for lunar volatiles as well as maturing a doppler lidar system for measuring aerosols and winds on Mars. Dr. Cremons also works to develop new techniques and methods that support science and exploration goals in the fields of infrared spectroscopy, optics, and laser physics.

He recently led the optical testing and flight qualification of laser retroreflector arrays for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. These arrays have flown on international (ISRO, JAXA) and CLPS missions (Peregrine Mission 1, IM-1 Odysseus, PRIME-1). These retroreflector arrays will create a permanent fiducial network of beacons that can be tracked with centimeter precision from lunar orbit with a laser altimeter.

In addition to instrument development, Dr. Cremons is passionate about all aspects of mission design, and has taken part in studies for New Frontiers-class missions to Uranus (JPL Planetary Science Summer School Participant) and Mars (MARLI instrument scientist).

Current Projects

Tunable Mid-infrared Spectropscopic Imaging Lidar for 4D Volatile Mapping

Technology & Missions

Our objective of this selected ROSES PICASSO project is to develop a widely tunable mid-infrared spectroscopic lidar to perform 4D reflectance experiments regardless of illumination, with the sensitivity to map the abundances of critical lunar volatiles including H2O, CO2, NH3, and H2S at kilometer ranges from the observation site. Each measurement will include a position (X,Y) in the field of view, a time of flight (range), and a reflectance value. The goal of this work is to increase the TRL of the instrument from TRL 2 to TRL 4. Proposed specific tasks include building the spectrometric receiver, performing gated imaging at a range of 1.5 km, and performing system tests over the entire wavelength range of icy lunar simulants under cryogenic vacuum conditions.

Our tunable lidar design is based on two complementary technologies: an optical parametric oscillator (OPO) laser and a gated imaging HgCdTe APD camera. The pulsed laser can be continuously tuned between 2 and 4 microns in wavelength. The HgCdTe APD camera is single photon sensitive and operates with high quantum efficiency over the spectral range from the visible to 4.3 microns. By gating the camera, signals are integrated only when the laser pulses illuminate the scene, which greatly improves the measurement signal to noise ratio. Moving the gate time away from the laser pulses enables passive reflectance measurements using the same system.

This instrument will provide new measurements informing the extent and origin of polar volatile deposits as well their composition and meter-scale distribution. Our technology would provide valuable surface spectroscopic measurements in other planetary applications with challenging illumination conditions. These include diurnal and seasonal cycles of cometary surfaces, where solar insolation drives volatile ice deposition, sublimation, and redistribution as well as generation of the gaseous coma and tail.

Small All-range Lidar (SALi) for Small Body Exploration


Under the ROSES MatISSE program, this effort will mature to TRL 6 a combination science and navigation swath-mapping lidar for small body missions. Dr. Cremons leads the algorithm development portion of this program and acts as the instrument systems engineer. This instrument represents a new class of planetary lidar by combining three technologies (RZPN code modulation, fiber laser, HgCdTe APD) to create a system that is sensitive over six orders of magnitude, allowing it to operate from hundreds of kilometers in range down to the surface. This enables the instrument to provide survey science on approach (spin, body shape), provide sub-meter scale mapping of the body (topography, reflectance, slope, roughness), and act as a guidance and navigation sensor during landing or surface sampling (range, velocity).

Small Lidar for Profiling Wind and Water Vapor from Planetary Landers

Remote Sensing

Under the ROSES PICASSO program, this effort is to build and test a breadboard lidar system for Doppler wind and water vapor profile retrieval. The system is design for a lander or rover on Mars with an off-zenith, dual-transceiver design to obtain vector winds to the top of the planetary boundary layer. In addition, water vapor absorption lines near 1910 nm will be used to profile water vapor absorption as a function of altitude at all times of day and over the course of a Mars year. Field testing of the breadboard instrument will be done at Mauna Kea Observatory where dry conditions and low atmospheric pressure will be used to simulate Mars surface conditions.

MARLI: Mars Lidar for Wind and Aerosol Measurements from Mars Orbit


Dr. Cremons has worked on both the PICASSO and MatiSSE efforts to mature a direct detection Doppler lidar for global Mars wind retrievals from orbit. Under PICASSO, he co-led the build and testing of the breadboard Doppler lidar in the laboratory at GSFC and the test field campaign at the Goddard Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory to measure wind from aerosol backscattering Earth's atmosphere. He also developed the wind retrieval algorithm for the PICASSO and MatISSE programs. Under MatISSE, Dr. Cremons led the optical and mechanical design of the brassboard/prototype instrument and is currently leading the prototype testing.

Commercial Lunar Payload Services


Dr. Cremons has worked on a small team to design, build, and flight-qualify miniature lunar retroreflector arrays (LRAs) for Lunar Landers under the CLPS program. His work included leading the thermal vacuum, optical, and vibration testing of the arrays including developing an automated optical test system and thermal vacuum test setup. He also designed and fabricated vacuum-compatible optical housings to prevent optics contamination between integration and launch. To date, five LRA units have flown, with three deployed on the surface.

Lunar Flashlight

Technology & Missions

Science Co-I and lead of instrument model lead.

Selected Publications


2024. "Lunar Flashlight science ground and flight measurements and operations using a multi-band laser reflectometer." Icarus 413 116013 [10.1016/j.icarus.2024.116013] [Journal Article/Letter]

2024. "Speckle Noise Reduction via Linewidth Broadening for Planetary Laser Reflectance Spectrometers." Remote Sensing 16 (9): 1515 [10.3390/rs16091515] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "The future of lidar in planetary science." Frontiers in Remote Sensing 3 [10.3389/frsen.2022.1042460] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Simulated Lunar Surface Hydration Measurements using Multispectral Lidar at 3 µm." Earth and Space Science 9 (8): e2022EA002277 [10.1029/2022ea002277] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Small PN-Code Lidar for Asteroid and Comet Missions – Receiver Processing and Performance Simulations." Remote Sensing 13 (12): 2282 [Full Text] [10.3390/rs13122282] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Small All-range Lidar for Asteroid and Comet Core Missions ." Sensors 21 (9): 3081 [Full Text] [10.3390/s21093081] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "First Two-way Laser Ranging to a Lunar Orbiter: infrared observations from the Grasse station to LRO’s retro-reflector array ." Earth, Planets and Space [Full Text] [10.1186/s40623-020-01243-w] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Optical Characterization of Laser Retroreflector Arrays for Lunar Landers." Applied Optics 59 (16): 5020-5031 [] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "QUEST: A New Frontiers Uranus orbiter mission concept study." Acta Astronautica 170 6-26 [10.1016/j.actaastro.2020.01.030] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Design of a direct-detection wind and aerosol lidar for mars orbit." CEAS Space Journal 12 (2): 149-162 [10.1007/s12567-020-00301-z] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Small and Lightweight Laser Retro-Reflector Arrays for Lunar Landers." Applied Optics 58 (33): 9259-9266 [10.1364/AO.58.009259] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Picosecond phase-velocity dispersion of hypersonic phonons imaged with ultrafast electron microscopy." Physical Review Materials 1 (7): 073801 [10.1103/physrevmaterials.1.073801] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Defect-mediated phonon dynamics in TaS2 and WSe2." Structural Dynamics 4 (4): 044019 [10.1063/1.4982817] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Multimodal visualization of the optomechanical response of silicon cantilevers with ultrafast electron microscopy." Journal of Materials Research 32 (1): 239-247 [10.1557/jmr.2016.360] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Femtosecond electron imaging of defect-modulated phonon dynamics." Nature communications 7 11230 [10.1038/ncomms11230] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Direct in situ thermometry: Variations in reciprocal-lattice vectors and challenges with the Debye--Waller effect." Ultramicroscopy 161 10-16 [10.1016/j.ultramic.2015.10.022] [Journal Article/Letter]


2024. "A small all-range LIDAR for topographic mapping from orbit and navigation guidance during descent and touchdown." SPIE Laser Radar Technology and Applications XXIX 13049 1304905 [10.1117/12.3012734] [Proceedings]

2021. "Measuring Mars Atmospheric Winds from Orbit." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.6576a506] [Other]

2021. "The Mars Atmospheric and Polar Science Mission." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.7e4e0e4d] [Other]

2018. "A spectrographic receiver for laser spectrometers." Multispectral, Hyperspectral, and Ultraspectral Remote Sensing Technology, Techniques and Applications VII 10780 [10.1117/12.2324818] [Proceedings]

2018. "Development of a Mars lidar (MARLI) for measuring wind and aerosol profiles from orbit." Lidar Technologies, Techniques, and Measurements for Atmospheric Remote Sensing XIV [10.1117/12.2325408] [Proceedings]


2017 - PhD, Materials Science - Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

2011 - BA, Chemistry, cum laude - Department of Chemistry, Carleton College, Northfield, MN

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Tunable Infrared Spectroscopic Imaging Lidar (TINSIL): A Comprehensive Lunar Volatile Mapping Experiment  

13, 2023

Cremons, D. R.; Sun, X.; Honniball, C. I.; Numata, K.; Lucey, P. G., Fall AGU Meeting

Testing of Lunar Retroreflector Array for SpaceIL Lunar Spacecraft

December 28, 2018

Cremons, D. R.; Sun, X. S.; Hoffman, E.; Wake, S.; Denny, Z.; Dogoda, P.; Aaron, P.; Cristopolous, P., SpaceIL Headquarters, Tel Aviv, Israel.

MARLI: MARs Lidar for global wind and aerosol profiles from orbit

October 13, 2018

Abshire, J.; Cremons, D. R.; Riris, H.; Sun, X.; Allan, G.; Smith, M. D.; Guzewich, S.; Yu, A.; Hovis, F.; Gentry, B., International Workshop on Instrumentation for Planetary Missions, Berlin, Germany.

Development of a Mars lidar (MARLI) for measuring wind and aerosol profiles from Orbit

October 11, 2018

Cremons, D. R.; Abshire, J.; Allan, G.; Sun, X.; Riris, H.; Smith, M. D.; Guzewich, S.; Yu, A.; Hovis, F., SPIE Remote Sensing 2018, Berlin, Germany.


A Spectroscopic Navigation Lidar for the Endurance Rover

September 9, 2023

Cremons, D. R.; Absire, J. B.; Stubbs, T. J.; Honniball, C. I.; Moriarty, D. P.; Numata, K. Endurance Science Workshop

Passive Retroreflector Arrays for Polar Navigation in the Dark

6, 2022

Cremons, D. R., Smith, D. E., Sun, X., Mazarico, E, and Head, J, CLPS Survive the Night Workshop

Mars Lander Lidar for Profiling Winds, Water Vapor, and Aerosols

July 29, 2022

Cremons, D. R., Abshire, J. B., Numata, K., Guzewich, S. D., Smith, M. D., Sun, X. Optimizing Planetary-In Situ Atmosphere Interactions Workshop

Small Lidar for Profiling Water Vapor, Aerosols and Winds from a Mars Lander

July 15, 2022

Abshire, J. B., Cremons, D. R., Numata, K., Guzewich, S. D., Smith, M. D., Sun, X. 7th Workshop on Mars Atmospheric Modelling and Observations

Simulating Multispectral Lidar Measurements of Lunar Surface Hydration

April 8, 2022

Cremons, D. R.; Honniball, C. I., Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 52.

Optical Characterization of CLPS Miniature Laser Retroreflector Arrays

April 15, 2021

Cremons, D. R.; Sun, X.; Denny, Z.; Wake, S. W.; Hoffman, E. D.; Aaron, E. C.; Mazarico, E.; Smith, D. E., Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 51.

Mapping Lunar Volatiles and Hydration in Light and Shadow via Orbital Lidar Reflectance Measurements from NIR to MWIR

2, 2020

Cremons, D. R.; Abshire, J. B.; Lucey, P. G.; Stubbs, T.; Sun, X., American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2020, P023-0008.

Small Lidar for Profiling Water Vapor and Winds from the Mars Surface

2, 2020

Abshire, J. B.; Guzewich, S. D.; Cremons, D. R.; Smith, M. D.; Numata, K.; Sun, X., American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2020, P084.

A Mission Concept for Measuring Changes in Apophis During Earth Encounter

December 8, 2020

Smith, D. E.; Sun, X.; Mazarico, E.; Cremons, D. R.; Zuber, M. T.; Neumann, G. A.; Goossens, S. J.; Barker, M. K.; Mao, D.; Head, J. W., Apophis T-9 Years: Knowledge Opportunities for the Science of Planetary Defense.

Multiwavelength Lidar for Remote Spectroscopic Measurements of the Lunar Surface

April 19, 2020

Cremons, D. R.; Abshire, J. A.; Lucey, P. G.; Stubbs, T. J.; Mazarico, E.,  Lunar Surface Science Workshop, LPI.

Miniature Laser Retro-Reflector Arrays (LRA) for Lunar Landers

11, 2019

Sun, X.; Smith, D. E.; Hoffman, E. D.; Wake, S. W.; Cremons, D. R.; Mazarico, E.; Lauenstein, J. M.; Zuber, M. T.; Aaron, E. C., AGU Fall Meeting 2019, San Francisco, California.

Multiwavelength Lidar for Remote Spectroscopic Surveys of Volatiles on the Lunar Surface

13, 2019

Cremons, D. R.; Abshire, J. B.; Lucey, P. G.; Yu, A.; Sun, X.; Stubbs, T. J.; Numata, K., AGU Fall Meeting 2019, San Francisco, California.

Miniature Laser Retro-Reflector Arrays (LRA) as Fiducial Markers on Lunar Landers

November 29, 2019

Sun, X.; Smith, D. E.; Hoffman, E. D.; Wake, S. W.; Cremons, D. R.; Mazarico, E.; Lauenstein, J. M.; Zuber, M. T.; Aaron, E. C., Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, Washington, D. C.

2-Way Laser Ranging from the Grasse Station to LRO: Implications for Lunar Laser Ranging

November 29, 2019

Mazarico, E.; Sun, X.; Torre, J.-M.; Courde, C.; Aimar, M.; Chabé, J.; Bouquillon, S.; Lemoine, F. G.; Mao, D.; Barker, M. K.; Viswanathan, V.; Cremons, D. R.; Zuber, M. T.; Smith, D. E., Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, Washington, D. C.

QUEST: A New Frontiers Uranus Orbiter Concept Study from the 30th Annual NASA/JPL Planetary Science Summer Seminar 

April 19, 2019

Jarmak, S.; Leonard, E.; Schurmeier, L.; Akins, A.; Cofield, S; Cremons, D. R.; Curtis, A.; Dahl, E.; Dong, C.; Dunham, E. T.; Journaux, B.; Murakami, W.; Ng, M.; Piquette, M.; Pradeepkumar Girija, A.; Rink, N.; Stein, N.; Tallarida, N.; Telus, M.; Lowes, L.; Budney, C.; Mitchell, K. L., Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 50, The Woodlands, Texas.

Testing of Miniature Laser Retroreflector Arrays for Commercial Lunar Landers

April 16, 2019

Cremons, D. R.; Sun, X.; Hoffman, E.; Wake, S.; Mazarico, E.; Neumann, G. A.; Barker, M.; Smith, D. E.; Genova, A.; Zuber, M. T.; Denny, Z.; Dogoda, P.; Aaron, E.; Cristopolous, P., Microsymposium 60: Forward to the Moon to Stay: Undertaking Transformative Lunar Science with Commercial Partners, The Woodlands, Texas.

MARLI: Mars Lidar for Global Wind Measurements from Orbit

12, 2018

Cremons, D. R.; Abshire, J.; Allan, G.; Sun, X.; Riris, H.; Smith, M. D.; Guzewich, S.; Yu, A.; Hovis, F., AGU Fall Meeting 2018, Washington, D. C.


2017 - NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship, Universities Space Research Association

2016 - Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, University of Minnesota

2016 - Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, University of Minnesota

2015 - Excellence in Safety Award, University of Minnesota

2011 - Distinction for Senior Integrative Exercise, Carleton College

2006 - Eagle Scout Award, Boy Scouts of America

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

2018 - Present

Materials Research Society

2015 - 2016

Professional Service

-GSFC Lead for NASA ISRU System Capability Leadership Team

-Technical Monitor for NASA STMD LuSTR Program

-Reviewer for internal NASA GSFC R&A programs

-Reviewer for NASA R&A programs

-Session Chair: SPIE Remote Sensing 2018 (Berlin, Germany)

-Science advocate, AGU Congressional Meetings

-Journal reviewer (Robotics, Applied Optics, Earth and Space Science, Sensors, Optics Express, Remote Sensing)

Other Professional Information


1.    Klun, T. P.; Ali, M. B.; Pokorny, R. J.; Cremons, D. R.; Toy, M. L., Additive Comprising Low Surface Energy Group and Hydroxyl Groups and Coating Compositions. Patent No: US 9803042, published: Oct. 31, 2017 

2.    Pokorny, R. J.; Klun, T. P.; Ali, M. B.; Cremons, D. R.; Toy, M. L, Coating Compositions Comprising Polymerizable Non-Ionic Surfactant Exhibiting Reduced Fingerprint Visibility. Patent No: US 9701850, published: July 11, 2017.  

Special Experience

2018 - Planetary Science Summer Seminar 2018 (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Selected Public Outreach

Volunteer, Moon Day with the Bowie Baysox

2018 - 2018

Judge, Pennsylvania Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

2019 - 2019

Volunteer, Moon Outreach at the Apollo 50th Festival

August 2019 - August 2019

Maryland Institute College of Art AstroAnimation

February 2022 - Present

Speaker, Lava Beds National Monument Public Outreach Event

June 2022 - Present