Wednesday, May 9, 1962: Project Luna See

Louis Smullin and Giorgio Fiocco of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology aimed a ruby laser beam toward the moon's surface and Albategnius became the first lunar feature to reflect laser light from Earth. (From the book "Moonwalk with Your Eyes" by Tammy Plotner, 2010.)

From a New York Times article dated May 10:

Last night, for the first time, man illuminated another celestial body.
Had someone been standing in the mountainous region southeast of the crater Albategnius on the moon, the stark and darkened lunar landscape about him would have been lighted by a succession of dim red flashes.
The effect is thought to have been limited to a circular area of the moon's surface only one mile in radius. The light beam was produced by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using a device known as a laser or optical maser.
It produces a beam of extreme intensity and narrowness. The reflected light could be detected on earth only by electronic means. However, according to Dr. Charles H. Townes, inventor of the maser of now provost of M.I.T., the illumination on the moon's surface was comparable to that produced on the walls of a large room by a flashlight bulb. ...
He and many others believe such devices will play a key role in communications with and between space vehicles. ... Ultimately, Dr. Townes believes, the laser principle may provide an efficient means for transmitting energy long distances. It could be used to provide power to expeditions on the moon or other planets, using sources on the earth. It is also being tested as surgical knife and may be useful for delicate welding jobs.

* Report from Smullin and Fiocco (MIT publication; scroll down to "Project Luna See"): @
* "The laser in astronomy" (from New Scientist, June 1963): @
* Entry on Albategnius (from the book "The Moon in Close-Up: A Next Generation Astronomer's Guide," John Wilkinson, 2010): @
* Entry on Albategnius (from Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature): @
* Earlier post on lasers (May 16, 1960): @
* Earlier post on laser surgery: @

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