Discovery News - 2010 March 14
The Mysterious Degradation of the Apollo Reflector Arrays
- Reflectors were placed on the moon during Apollo missions.
- During a full moon, their reflectivity drops by a factor of 10.
- New research proposes that dust on the reflectors heats up during a full moon, distorting their shape.
Technology Review: physics arXiv blog - 2010 March 05
Long-term degradation of optical devices on the moonThe efficiency of the Apollo reflector arrays drops by a factor of ten during a full moon. Now a new analysis may explain why.
arXiv:1003.0713v1 [astro-ph.EP] 2010 March 03
Given neufer's previous involvement, I thought he might be interested.Forty years ago, Apollo astronauts placed the first of several retroreflector arrays on the lunar surface. Their continued usefulness for laser-ranging might suggest that the lunar environment does not damage optical devices. However, new laser ranging data reveal that the efficiency of the three Apollo reflector arrays is now diminished by a factor of ten at all lunar phases and by an additional factor of ten when the lunar phase is near full moon. These deficits did not exist in the earliest years of lunar ranging, indicating that the lunar environment damages optical equipment on the timescale of decades. Dust or abrasion on the front faces of the corner-cube prisms may be responsible, reducing their reflectivity and degrading their thermal performance when exposed to face-on sunlight at full moon. These mechanisms can be tested using laboratory simulations and must be understood before designing equipment destined for the moon.