Space Radar on Earth Sees the Apollo 15 Landing Site on the Moon

Apollo 15 landing site radar image 1 photo
Photo: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/AUI/NSF/USGS
In July 1971, Apollo 15 took off from Earth as the ninth such crewed missions heading for the Moon. It landed there, in the Hadley Rille region, and became the first human expedition to another world to use motorized means of transportation: the famed lunar rover.
The Moon is the closest object in space to Earth, and has been the target of intense study ever since humans became aware of it being a celestial body. But seeing its surface as a radar-generated image is not something that happens every day.

Back in November 2020, the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory (GBO) used its Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to do exactly that. It used the Apollo 15 landing site as a target, and when it was all done, it got back the image you see as the main photo of this piece.

The achievement was made public by GBO at the end of January, together with some details as to how it all came to pass.

According to the organization, it worked together with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Raytheon Intelligence & Space. The latter was responsible for providing a new transmitter capable of sending a powerful radar signal into space.

Although spectacular in result, the test was just a proof of concept, as the Moon is not the prime target for the technology. Instead, NRAO and GBO will probably use it when a more powerful transmitter is fully functional to increase the detection capability of small objects passing by the Earth.

The plan is to have up and running a 500-kilowatt radar system capable of seeing these objects in extreme detail, but also of sending its signal to the orbits of Uranus and Neptune to see what’s there.

"The planned system will be a leap forward in radar science, allowing access to never-before-seen features of the Solar System from right here on Earth,” said in a statement Karen O’Neil, the Green Bank Observatory site director.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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