Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Acquisition Луноход 1

From Lunar Pioneer
It might seem easy to spot after cameras on-board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) found Lunokhod 1 late last year. Nevertheless, after years of searching, before last November little hope remained that it's French-built laser reflectors would ever assume their important place with four other reflector stations on the Moon. With the help of LRO researchers have now acquired a reflection, tallied in photons, from the old Russian vehicle, a big bonus for theoretical cosmology and planetary science. In the images above and below Lunakhod 1 is set within the context of true surroundings. Above, a high ridge is visible on the north-northwest horizon, beyond the flat vastness of Mare Imbrium. These are the foothills southwest of Promontorium Heraclides. The closest of these are about 42 kilometers away. Click here for a better look.

Can you find Lunokhod 1 in the top image, maybe from clues in the enhanced close-up below it? The Russian lunar rover parked on the western shore of Mare Imbrium hadn't been detected since September 1971. More important than just locating Lunokhod 1, with the essential help of the LROC team at Arizona State, researchers very recently detected it's French-built laser range reflector. LRO (LROC) Narrow-Angle Camera M114185541RE (Orbit 1961, November 30, 2009, alt. 48.4 km. & resolution = 51.3 cm per pixel.) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have acquired a reflection from the Laser Range Retro-Reflector on Lunokhod 1, the Soviet lunar rover that went missing from September 1971 until being found last November through the narrow-angle cameras on LRO.

The addition of a fifth working laser reflector is a windfall for physicists who believe measuring an even finer Earth-Moon distance could solve important puzzles about the cosmos, things like the locality of physical laws, for example. Putting a point on the Earth-Moon distance finer than three centimeters is thought to be the key.

As early as December 1969 McDonald Observatory gauged the Earth-Moon distance to within 30 centimeters by timing reflection of laser light to and from the Apollo 11 landing site. A pencil-thin laser beam is a kilometer-wide after a 1.5 light-second trip to the Moon. The LRRR deployed at Tranquility Base was designed to reflect light precisely in the direction from which it arrives. After an additional 1.5 seconds the laser light returned to Earth is measured by the photon, enough over many sessions to measure Earth-Moon distance with great precision.

An additional LRRR, identical to the one at Tranquility, was deployed at Fra Mauro by Apollo 14 and another, four-times larger than these, was set up north of the equator near Hadley Rille by Apollo 15. The latter, deployed in 1971, is still the most reliable of the LRRR's set up during the Apollo era.

The Soviet Union landed two RTG-powered lunar rovers, in 1970 and 1973, and both Lunokhod 1 and 2 were equipped with smaller French-built LRRR's. After ten months of successful operation the Soviets lost contact with Lunokhod 1 in 1971. Despite problematic thermal issues and limitations due to its smaller size the LRRR on Lunokhod 2, parked on the eastern side of Mare Serenitatis, has been periodically detected since its mission ended in 1973.

Lunokhod 1 was thought to be parked properly, to the west of it's carrier landing site near the western edge of Mare Imbrium. Instead it appears the rover was properly parked to the north of its last known location, enough for a wide miss. No confirmed detection of its LRRR had been cataloged in over 39 years, until now.

Laser Range Retro-Reflector array at the Moon. Apollo 11 (1969) & Apollo 14 (1971), near the equator and 27 degrees of longitude apart, each one quarter the size of the unit deployed by Apollo 15 (1972). Not detected until 2010 is the french-built triangular array on the Soviet rover Lunokhod 1. The design repeated on the Lunokhod 2 robotic rover has experienced "thermal drawbacks" that hinder daylight detection, conversely sometimes aiding its detection during the lunar night. In addition, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center is presently keeping close track of LRO using laser ranging from a telescope in Maryland.

In 2005 McDonald Observatory shut down its laser and U.S. work moved to the more powerful and more sensitive system at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. As work has progressed there, high hopes have been held that, at last, Lunokhod 1 might be added to the network. With the help of LRO, which swept up the definite location of the long-lost Soviet rover last November, four decades of patience have been rewarded.

Read Monday's University of California/San Diego news release through the report from NASA's Astrobiology Institute, HERE.

Read NASA's recent report on the LRO surveys of the Lunokhod landing sites, HERE.

Some other Laser Range Retro-Reflector posts:

A Fundamental Point on the Moon (April 13, 2010)

Long-term degradation of optics on the Moon (March 4, 2010)

Laser Ranging and the LRO (August 12, 2009)


NASA are NAZIS said...

You can see the wires on the astroNOTS here:


A good scientist will not dismiss all the evidence and justify the anomolies so their NASAized Ptolmaic-esque view of the Universe is maintained.

NASA can not even send a rover to the Moon today in 2011 but they sent humans, with 10ft unfoldable cars and a portable invisible tv station that was all set up and ready to broadcast in 1969 with rotary phone technology?

And they managed to take 6000 photos with a hassenblad camera? How did they change the film wearing welding gloves? How did they adjust the focus and shutter speed? How was the film not damaged when exposed to the radiation when it was magically changed??????

You think this piece of UNWELDED crap could withstand the significant g-forces landing and propelling itself from the Moon and didn't lose one of its UNWELDED panels?


Joel Raupe said...

Interest points, NRN. Considering myself a good scientist, and an avid proponent of lunar exploration in particular, I am convinced that vehicle - and I believe you were referencing the Apollo 16 lunar module and crew in particular - did, indeed, land on the Cayley plain north of the Descartes formation in 1972. There is no such thing as an absolute certainty about anything, of course, but the weight of historic evidence appears to lean heavily in favor of that event. I have to say that an important part of that chain of evidence relies in no small part on the credibility of John Young and Charlie Duke - though that is not the only testimony I would cite. Nevertheless, as a scientist, I do try to remain open-minded. By all means, feel free to offer point by point refutation of the evidence, or a reason for doubting the personal testimony of Charlie Duke, for example, I will be happy to provide you with a detailed response. - Respectfully - Joel Raupe, Lunar Pioneer, LLP.