NDL is about the size of a breadbox and contains three lasers, each about the size of a piece of corn on the cob. (NASA/David C. Bowman)

A laser-guided navigation sensor that could help future rovers make safe, precise landings on Mars or destinations beyond was developed at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL) will act as a GPS for Mars spacecraft.

NDL’s breadbox size gives it a significant advantage over previous lander technologies. In fact, it looks petite compared to the radar that helped the Curiosity rover land on Mars. That radar was a four-foot-long plate with electronics sticking out of the top and large antennas jutting out from the bottom.