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Lunokhod 1

Above is Lunokhod 1, a Soviet robotic rover that landed on the moon in 1970 and eventually died, leaving its final resting place unknown. That is, until a few months ago when UC San Diego astrophysicist Tom Murphy fired off laser pulses at the moon and detected the photons reflected back in the ultrasensitive telescope at the Apache Point Observatory. It turns out that Murphy had found Lunokhod 1. Now, he’s planning to use it to precisely measure lunar motion and test theories of gravity. From IEEE Spectrum…

Murphy suspected that (Apache Point Observatory’s) superior capability might allow him to find the long-lost rover, and he decided to devote just a small percentage of telescope time to test this whim. At first, his attempts to locate the rover were fruitless. Because of atmospheric divergence, the laser pulse forms a beam footprint on the moon of 2 km. He later found out that he was working with coordinates 4.5 km off target. Then, in March, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter beamed back photographs of the Russian lunar landers Luna 17 and 21. “It was really fantastic imaging,” Murphy says. “You could even see the rovers’ tracks. You could trace out where they went and what their journey looked like.”

Forgotten Soviet Moon Rover Beams Light Back to Earth