Laser Beams Finally Bounced Back to the Earth From the Moon

LRO's more than a decade journey provided some results for new possible discoveries.
Deniz Yildiran

Earthlings are known to meddle with lasers and try to make them work for different purposes. While communicating with beings out of this world with lasers was a challenging idea and a tough project to pull off; however, sending them to the moon and getting them back was actually a successful one. 

A group of scientists from NASA have finally got their signal back from the Moon, thanks to Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). NASA used infrared lasers which were developed by their colleagues from the Géoazur team at the Université Côte d'Azur, France.

They waited more than 10 years for an answer though, because LRO arrived at the Moon in 2009.


How does it work?

It is not the first time a reflector is used for such a purpose. Scientists have relied on reflectors on the Moon missions since the Apollo Program back in 1969. 

Basically, a laser beam is sent to the reflector from Earth, afterwards, the amount of time it takes to come back is measured. It also helps with the calculation of the distance between Earth laser stations and Moon reflectors. Reportedly, a couple of important moon-related discoveries were made thanks to this.

One of them was the fact that the Moon has a liquid core, concluded by the little wobbling motions it makes as it revolves around itself. 

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The other revelation made thanks to the magnetic measurements was that the little celestial body had a magnetic field a long time ago. It raised the question of what was the insides of the moon made of. 

What's the point?

It is time for RLO to figure out why the 50-year-old reflector tools installed by Apollo 11 and 14 crews are sending quite low signals to Earth now.

Old reflectors are assumed to be covered by the dust from micrometeorite impacts on the Moon. And that the dust is blocking beams from reaching the reflectors properly. Scientists now plan to compare the mismatch between the light coming back from the LRO and the old panels using computer models to find out if the dust is the real problem.

Although the experiments are successful and the related research is published, scientists are not done collecting even more information.

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