Finally China Receives Laser Echoes from All Mirror Reflectors on Moon

  • Currently, Russia, the US, France, Italy and now China have successfully applied technology for the most precise laser measurement between the Earth and the Moon.
  • The US McDonald Observatory was the first to carry out experiments in Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR).
  • Soviets carried out the experiment in 1963.

For the first time, China received laser echoes from all mirror reflectors on the Moon (A15, A14, A11, L17, L21). The information became available via 6do news on December 8.  The research group successfully completed laser distance measurements between Earth and the moon. The first experiment by China took place in 2018 with a 1.2-meter telescope laser ranging system. Clearly, it is not competitive with the US results achieved in the same field.

Some of the findings of this long-term experiment are: The Moon is spiraling away from Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm/year. This rate has been described as anomalously high.

LLR measures the distance between the Earth and the moon by calculating the time a laser pulse takes to travel from a ground station on Earth to a retro-reflector on the moon and back again. LLR technology traverses fields such as laser and photoelectric detection, automatic control and space orbiting. The formula used to  calculate the distance to the Moon using the equation: distance = (speed of light × duration of delay due to reflection) / 2.

Currently, Russia, the US, France, Italy and now China have successfully applied technology for the most precise laser measurement between the Earth and the Moon. The US McDonald Observatory was the first to carry out experiments in Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR).

The Soviet Union started working on a similar project in the same year, after the MIT team successfully carried out an experiment in 1962.  The station construction was in Crimea and Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow was responsible for the project. The head of the laboratory of Quantum Radiophysics ended up winning the Nobel Prize for his work. The first results were obtained in 1963 from the station that was built. The laser impulses were sent and received by the 2.6 m Shajn Mirror Telescope of the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory. In 1965 the same team was the first to use a new laser with Q-switch modulation.

However, China built its station less than a year ago. China has boasted they will have the most powerful laser and station by 2025. Nevertheless, China has been known to exaggerate its capabilities and facts. In China all media is government owned and controlled, so it could be construed as propaganda. It would be similar to Russia’s RT channel created for the same purposes.

The Moon probably has a liquid core of about 20% of the Moon’s radius.

The largest reflector is the Apollo 15 reflector Lunar Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR), measuring 105 x 65 cm, with a panel of three hundred prisms. The ongoing Lunar Laser Ranging experiment, or an Apollo landing mirror, measures the distance between surfaces of the Earth and the Moon using laser ranging. Lasers at observatories on Earth are aimed at retroreflectors planted on the Moon during the Apollo program (11, 14, and 15), and the two Lunokhod missions.

It is highly unlikely that China will overtake US accomplishments in the field or surpass the results of previous experiments. As much as China has a space focus, it still remains behind and a lot of times the technology is obtained through espionage. The Moon is a big focus for exploration and earthlings may soon put a colony there as well.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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