Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: Lasers on the Moon

Some days you have to write about nuclear waste. Some days you have to write about water contamination in the Rio Grande. And some days you simply can’t avoid writing about shooting lasers at the moon (sub/ad req):

Scientists using a NASA satellite and a New Mexico telescope have found a missing Soviet spacecraft on the moon.

NASA scientists saw a white dot in images released last month from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in the general area where Lunokhod 1 was thought to have been lost back in 1971.

Lunokhod 1 is a wheeled robotic rover about the size of a riding mower, dispatched during the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War race to explore the moon. The robot — its name roughly translates as “moon walker” — wandered a patch of lunar soil for nearly a year before contact was lost in September 1971, said Tom Murphy, a physicist at the University of California San Diego.

Murphy, who has been hunting for Lunokhod 1 for years, used a telescope at Apache Point Observatory in southeastern New Mexico to scan the spot April 22.

“Within 10 seconds, we knew we found it,” said Murphy in a telephone interview Tuesday.