Apollo Moon Missions and Laser

The Ash Dome that now crowns the MVAS Apollo Observatory was part of a facility operated by the former Rome Air Development Center (RADC), now known as the Rome Research Site.  RADC was involved in a program called CORAL, which means Coherent Optical Radar Laboratory. One of the various experiments performed at the site involved aiming a laser at the moon. The laser was housed under the Ash Dome in Floyd, NY.

Pulses of laser light were fired from the Earth and were reflected back by a laser reflector, which was placed on the moon in 1969 by the Apollo 11 astronauts. Later, other reflectors were placed at the lunar landing sites of the Apollo 14 and 15 missions.

The use of these devices was to determine the round trip travel time of a laser pulse from the Earth to the Moon and back again, thereby calculating the distance between the two with incredible accuracy. The data gathered has shown that the Moon is receding from the Earth at about 1.5 inches every year.

Unlike other scientific experiments left on the Moon by the Apollo Missions, the reflectors require no power and are still functioning perfectly. They continue to return valuable data. However, the Floyd site was closed, the laser removed, and the Ash Dome lay dormant for many years until it was rescued by members of the future Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society.

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