From The Guardian:
US research that began with the first Apollo landing – and helped to prove that the moon is moving away from Earth – is to be axed.
An experiment, begun when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left a mirror on the lunar surface 40 years ago to allow Earth-based astronomers to fire lasers at it, has been ended by American science chiefs.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) last week wrote to scientists working at the McDonald Laser ranging station at Fort Davis in Texas to tell them the annual $125,000 funding for their research project was going be terminated following a review of its scientific merits.
The decision means that four decades of continuous lunar laser research at the McDonald Observatory, run by the University of Texas at Austin, will be halted by the end of this year. Among the project’s unlikely achievements has been the discovery that the moon is moving away from Earth at a rate of two-and-a-half inches a year.
The mirror’s existence, and the fact that astronomers can bounce lasers off it and detect the returning beam, has also provided Nasa and other scientists with compelling evidence to refute the claims of moon-landing deniers who claim the Apollo lunar mission were hoaxes filmed in an Earth-based studio.
“It is a bitter-sweet feeling to know this is going to come to end at McDonald,” said Peter Shelus, head of the laser ranging project. “We have done a great deal of important work using the moon mirrors but it is clearly time for it to end. However, we are hopeful that this work will be continued at other astronomy centres.”
[Read more at The Guardian]
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