On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, making one of the most significant impacts on space exploration history. At that time, we had no idea just how much space travel would evolve over the decades to come, from Apollo 11 to Apollo 13 to SpaceX Crew Dragon and beyond. As the technology evolves, so does the thirst for space exploration of the vast and unknown. Fast forward to 2020, and we have the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The Orbiter has been in space since 2009, studying the moon and bouncing laser beams off panels attached to the Orbiter. On August 13, 2020, scientists announced that after years of trying, the laser beam finally picked up a signal and returned it to Earth. The beam traveled 240,000 miles and landed on a panel no bigger than a paperback novel.
One of the significant findings was that the Earth and the moon’s orbit are drifting apart at about 1.5 inches per year due to gravitational interactions. Scientists, however, need to find out why information is only being beam back at partial strength. At present, it can take 2.5 seconds for the laser to reach the moon. Scientists also want to continue to study the moon’s magnetic fields and interior. So far, the studies have found that the moon has a fluid core at its center, but the material of the core is unknown. It is also not yet known what is generating the magnetic fields on the moon. These fields are another thing that a laser must travel through, which may cause disruptions in reading accuracy.
The scientist’s report also included a time-lapse to show just how fast the laser can work. Still, sometimes it would only bring back about 200 photons at a time, which they hope to fix soon.
It is hoped that this study will continue to unlock the mysteries of the moon and give humanity a fuller picture and that we continue to take the giant leap and Neil Armstrong so famously spoke of. If you would like to read more about the report, click here