NASA finds lost Soviet lunar rover after 40 years.
NASA has previously attempted to locate Lunokhod 1, but it wasn’t until this recent sighting that they were able to pinpoint its coordinates. Once its location was established, pulses of laser light were sent to it from the 3.5 meter telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. Amazingly, the rover’s retroreflector sent the pulses back to the observatory bright and clear.
Lunokhod 1 was followed by a second rover, Lunokhod 2, in 1973. Its location has long been known, and its retroreflector has routinely been used for Earth-based scientific studies. Interestingly, however, the older rover sends back a much stronger signal. “The best signal we’ve seen from Lunokhod 2 in several years of effort is 750 return photons, but we got about 2,000 photons from Lunokhod 1 on our first try,” said UC San Diego’s Tom Murphy, who is leading the research team. “It’s got a lot to say after almost 40 years of silence.”
It isn’t known why Lunokhod 1’s reflection is so much better, but NASA believes it could yield clues as to why other reflectors placed on the moon have weakened after a decade spent on the lunar surface.
Now that it has been located, Lunokhod 1 will become part of an ongoing laser ranging study. By measuring the time it takes for laser pulses to reach various locations on the moon and reflect back, over time scientists can map its orbit with millimeter precision.
Via NASA Science News.