Active atmospheric sounding with lidar in principle offers great advantages over passive sounding, including higher spatial resolution and better species selectivity. These improved capabilities have been unavailable in practice due to the great spacecraft burdens of conventional lasers. The long range and high ground speed of spaceflight operation lead to high laser output power requirements. The low efficiency of most lasers leads in turn to exorbitant electrical power and heat removal requirements. Space qualification of Nd:YAG will provide a high efficiency laser suitable for elastic backscatter measurements, but his laser will not be capable of DIAL operation, nor is it practical for an eye-safe wind speed Doppler lidar. Alexandrite is a laser source that is being proven in certain demanding lidar applications, such as resonant backscatter from mesospheric metals. This laser has the great practical advantage of tunability, permitting its use for differential absorption lidar. Laser diode pumping of alexandrite has been demonstrated, using the recently developed short wavelength, high power laser diodes. Laser diode injection seeding of a ring laser yields tunability and extremely narrow linewidth, under 20 MHz. Spaceflight applications of alexandrite are considered, including two- wavelength measurements of aerosols, differential absorption measurements of atmospheric molecules, and Doppler measurement of tropospheric and stratospheric wind speeds. The lidar support requirements are compared to the capabilities of relatively small spacecraft for low cost missions.