January 31, 2011 - How Far the Moon?

How Far the Moon? Launched forty years ago this week, Apollo 14 became the third mission to land astronauts on the Moon. While Stuart Roosa orbited the Moon in the Command Module Kitty Hawk, Alan Shepard (above) and Edgar Mitchell descended to the surface in the Lunar Module Antares. One important piece of equipment they deployed was the Laser Ranging Retro Reflector (LR3), a grid of 100 reflecting cubes that became a target for scientists on Earth, who bounced powerful laser beams off its reflective surface. By measuring the time it takes the laser beam to make the round trip, scientists can calculate the distance to the Moon to an accuracy of mere inches. Similar LR3s were left by the Apollo 11 and 15 astronauts, and they represent the only Apollo experiments that are still in use today.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

January 31 - February 6, 2011

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 31

1958: Explorer 1 launched
1961: Mercury Redstone 2 suborbital flight with chimpanzee Ham
1966: Luna 9 launched
1971: Apollo 14 launched
1985: ESA approves the Columbus program

Moon phase Tuesday 1

Mercury 4° south of Moon

1956: Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) established
1959: First Titan I launch
2003: Space shuttle Columbia destroyed during reentry; 7 astronauts die

Moon phase Wednesday 2

Groundhog Day

New Moon 9:31 PM ET

Moon phase Thursday 3

Chinese New Year

1966: Luna 9 lands on Moon
1984: STS-41B Challenger launched
STS-60 Discovery launched
1995: STS-63 Discovery launched
: Astronauts aboard the ISS launch SuitSat satellite

Moon phase Friday 4

Mars in conjunction with Sun

1906: Clyde Tombaugh born

Moon phase Saturday 5

1965: First test of Apollo Service Propulsion System engine
1967: Lunar Orbiter III launched
1971: Apollo 14 lands on Moon
1974: Mariner 10 uses gravity of Venus to adjust trajectory toward Mercury

Moon phase Sunday 6

Moon at apogee
Uranus 6° south of Moon

1971: Alan Shepard hits first golf balls on Moon

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.