Moon Landing: Apollo 15 Astronaut James Irwin gives salute beside U.S. flag during EVA

China’s Laser Ranging Puts Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories to Rest

The moon landing was faked? Many conspiracy theorists hold that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax, despite tons of evidence that it really happened. When I get into a debate with any moon landing conspiracy theorists (I usually try not to, though-life is too short to debate with morons, but sometimes you just can’t escape it), I send them this link: “China Completes Its First Successful Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment,” and the “moon landing was faked” debate is always over.

On January 22, 2018, the applied astronomy group from the Yunnan Observatories in China measured the distance between the Moon and the Earth using laser pulses reflected by the lunar retro-reflector placed by the U.S. crewed lunar mission Apollo 15. This incredible feat, reported by the Chinese news site Yicai Global, adds yet another layer of proof to the mountain of evidence supporting the reality of the moon landings.

Scientists measured the distance between the Apollo 15 retro-reflector and the Yunnan Observatories ground station to be between 385,823.433 kilometers (239,739.567 miles) and 387,119.600 kilometers (240,544.96739 miles) from 9:25 p.m. to 10:31 p.m. Beijing Time on January 22, 2018. These precise measurements are possible only because of the equipment left on the lunar surface by the Apollo missions.

Li Yuqiang, an associate researcher with Yunnan Observatories, remarked, “Although LLR (Lunar Laser Ranging) in China has not achieved the same level as pioneering countries like the U.S., our initial success still means progress, which started from scratch. In the near future, China will plant its own retro-reflector on the moon, which will further boost the development of LLR in China.”

This is just another nail in the coffin for those who believe the moon landing was a hoax.

Many other Chinese news sites also covered this experiment, including (but not limited to):

Apollo 15 Moon Landing Mission

The Apollo 15 moon landing mission, launched on July 26, 1971, was notable not only for its exploration achievements but also for the scientific instruments it left on the lunar surface. One of these instruments was the retro-reflector array, designed to reflect laser beams sent from Earth, allowing precise measurements of the distance between the Earth and the Moon. This retro-reflector was part of a series of similar devices deployed during the Apollo missions, with Apollo 11 and Apollo 14 also having placed arrays on the Moon.

The Apollo 11 and 14 laser reflector arrays are identical, each consisting of 100 fused silica corner cube reflectors mounted in a 46-centimeter aluminum panel. Each corner cube is 3.8 centimeters in diameter. The Apollo 11 and Apollo 14 arrays are located in the Sea of Tranquility and the Fra Mauro region, respectively.

The Apollo 15 retro-reflector, located in the Hadley Rille, however, was the largest and most advanced of the three. It consists of 300 corner-cube reflectors made of fused silica glass, mounted on a panel that measures 46 centimeters on each side. These corner-cube reflectors are designed to reflect light directly back to its source, regardless of the angle at which the light hits the reflector. This property makes them ideal for precision measurements.

Mon Landing: Apollo 15 Laser Ranging Retroreflector on the lunar surface
Apollo 15 Laser Ranging Retroreflector on the lunar surface. Image: NASA

Once placed on the Moon’s surface by astronauts David Scott and James Irwin, the retro-reflector array became a crucial tool for Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) experiments. By sending laser pulses from Earth to the retro-reflector and measuring the time it takes for the light to return, scientists can calculate the distance to the Moon with incredible accuracy, down to a few centimeters.

China’s experiment is not the first. Four observatories have regularly ranged the Moon using these reflectors: one is located at McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas; another was situated atop the extinct Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii, although it is now closed due to budget constraints; another is Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur located in southern France near Grasse; and another is the Fundamental Station Wettzell in Wettzell, Germany.

The Lick Observatory in northern California has also been used for lunar laser ranging experiments, and ranging programs have been conducted in Australia and Russia (oh, is Russia part of the conspiracy, like China?).

The Apollo 15 retro-reflector continues to be used in scientific research. even decades after its deployment, as we can see.


M. Özgür Nevres


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