Apache Point Observatory is home to “APOLLO”, the Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation. When the astronauts of NASA’s Apollo missions 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16 were on the moon surface, they left mirror packages.
Lasers can be fired at those mirrors and the return light can be used to very precisely (to the millimeter) the distance between the earth and the moon.
The unique atmospheric conditions that prevail at Apache Point create an environment that provides the best chance of successfully sending and receiving the laser bursts. “Best chance” is still a relative term — for every 1017 photons that are sent out, at best, 1 comes back and is measured at the observatory.
Those who found their way to the moon and back included:
- Phil Ower
- Paul Voestermans
- Eloy Cano
- steve willis
- mehmet durmus
- Chris Nason
all before the hint!