COLLEGE PARK, Md., Sept. 15 -- A laser-based imager to be carried aboard the NASA/University of Maryland Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL) spacecraft, scheduled to launch next year, will create the first global maps of forest vegetation. Scientists will use these maps to monitor the health of forests and measure their capacity to absorb carbon monoxide from the Earth's atmosphere. The Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS), built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will be used first to map forests in Maryland, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, and later to map California's Sequoia National Forest. A NASA Wallops Flight Facility C-130 aircraft will carry LVIS during these initial flights. LVIS has been used in earlier flights over the Costa Rican rain forest, where it produced the first fine-scale measurements of topography hidden beneath the forest canopy, of canopy height and structure, and -- using remote sensing -- of tropical forest biomass.