Lunokhod 1 still active after missed for 40+ years ?
Using information provided by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) instrument teams, researchers at the University of California San Diego successfully pinpointed the location of a long lost light reflector on the lunar surface by bouncing laser signals from Earth to the Russian Lunokhod 1 retroreflector.
The initial imaging of the two Russian rovers, Lunokhod 1 and 2 were made earlier this year by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team, led by Mark Robinson from Arizona State University in Tempe.
On April 22, Tom Murphy from the University of California San Diego and his team sent pulses of laser light from the 3.5 meter telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, zeroing in on the target coordinates provided by the LROC images and altitudes provided by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter.
“We quickly verified the signal to be real and found it to be surprisingly bright: at least five times brighter than the other Soviet reflector, on the Lunokhod 2 rover, to which we routinely send laser pulses,” said Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California San Diego. “The best signal we’ve seen from Lunokhod 2 in several years of effort is 750 return photons, but we got about 2,000 photons from Lunokhod 1 on our first try. It’s got a lot to say after almost 40 years of silence.”
Since Apollo deployed laser retroreflectors, astronomers have routinely used them track how the moon is slowly moving away from the Earth. This helps scientists develop a better understanding of the processes that are causing this motion, including what’s occurring inside the moon’s core and the tidal motions on the Earth.