Researchers track lost lunar probe

April 27, 2010 at 6:14 AM

GREENBELT, Md., April 27 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of California San Diego uncovered the location of a Russian light reflector lost on the lunar surface in the 1970s, NASA said.

Tom Murphy, an associated professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, and his team sent light pulses from a telescope at an observatory in New Mexico to pinpoint the location of the reflectors. They did so by bouncing laser signals from Earth to the Russian Lunokhod 1 retroreflector, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced.

"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 Murphy. "It's got a lot to say after almost 40 years of silence."

The retroreflectors were sent to the lunar surface in 1970 to help scientists analyze orbital mechanics and the tidal motions on Earth.

A lunar reconnaissance probe is set for a one-year mission around the lunar surface this year to map the surface in "unprecedented" detail, researchers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said.

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