Tests of Gravity Using Lunar Laser Ranging

Stephen M. Merkowitz  
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

'External link'http://asd.gsfc.nasa.gov/Stephen.Merkowitz/


Lunar laser ranging (LLR) has been a workhorse for testing general relativity over the past four decades. The three retroreflector arrays put on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts and the French built arrays on the Soviet Lunokhod rovers continue to be useful targets, and have provided the most stringent tests of the Strong Equivalence Principle and the time variation of Newton’s gravitational constant. The relatively new ranging system at the Apache Point 3.5 meter telescope now routinely makes millimeter level range measurements. Incredibly, it has taken 40 years for ground station technology to advance to the point where characteristics of the lunar retroreflectors are limiting the precision of the range measurements. In this article, we review the gravitational science and technology of lunar laser ranging and discuss prospects for the future.

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