Engineers use laser to spot Soviet-era Russian moon rover

April 30, 2013 at 6:58 PM
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MARSEILLE, France, April 30 (UPI) -- French scientists said they've used a laser to find a Soviet-era lunar rover on the moon, 42 years after the vehicle was launched to land on the lunar surface.

Researchers at the Cote d'Azur Observatory successfully bounced laser signals off a reflector known to be on the eight-wheeled Lunokhod 1 carried to the moon onboard the Soviet Luna 17 unmanned spacecraft in November 1970.

Lunokhod 1 operated for 10 months, transmitting data and images to Earth until contact was lost in September 1971.

This was not the first time Lunokhod 1 was spotted. NASA, guided by images sent back to Earth by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, was able to "pinpoint with laser pulses the exact location of the long lost light reflector left on the lunar surface by the Soviet Union nearly 40 years ago that many scientists had unsuccessfully searched for and never expected would be found," said.

The French team, led by engineer Jean-Marie Torre, located the rover using a technique called laser ranging, which determines the distance to a target by measuring the time required for a laser pulse to travel from a transmitter to a reflector on the target and back to a detector on Earth, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.

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