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Giant leaps for knowledge

16 Jul 2019, 08:30 UTC
Giant leaps for knowledge
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The world has changed since 1969. Home computers did not exist, colour televisions were up-and-coming, and telephones only came attached to a wall. Indeed, it is often said that a single modern smartphone contains more processing power than the computers that sent Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon in July 1969. Yet, despite 50 years of advancing technology here on Earth, the scientific legacy of NASA’s Apollo missions is far from over.
Take the three laser ranging retroreflectors that were put on the Moon by astronauts from Apollo 11, Apollo 14 (January–February 1971) and Apollo 15 (July–August 1971). Despite being on the Moon for almost half a century, the devices are still in operation. Comprising an array of corner-cube reflectors, each device is around the size of a small suitcase – the Apollo 15 array being the largest with 65 × 105 cm of reflectors. Using Earth’s telescopes, scientists can aim a laser beam at the arrays and detect the reflected photons to gain accurate measurements of the distance between the Earth and the Moon (see “How high the Moon”).
This experiment has contributed to our understanding of the Moon’s orbit, the variation in its rotation ...

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