The history of laser ranging to the moon and to the LAGEOS satellites will be discussed. This will be more of a personal history, rather than a comprehensive history, which would not fit in an hour anyway.
The demonstration experiment will be discussed in which the camera in the Surveyor spacecraft on the surface of the moon was laser illuminated. After this success, the lunar cube coroner retro-reflector package was designed, fabricated tested, and finally deployed by Armstrong during Apollo 11. Some of the design issues with the array will be discussed, especially as they relate to the current work at INFN for the LAGEOS III/LARES satellite. The laser and optics were developed at the McDonald observatory and regular laser ranging commenced. Some of the science objectives and the results of the lunar laser ranging will be addressed.
This was followed by the design and deployment of the LAGEOS satellite by NASA and then the Italian LAGEOS II satellite. These satellites will be briefly described and again the science objectives and the results will be discussed. The role of photon thrust in the LAGEOS program will be discussed.
The context of the current work at the INFN for high accuracy thermal and optical modeling will be briefly addressed. This will be followed by extensive testing of this modeling in a new thermal-vacuum chamber that permits the simulation of the solar illumination and the earth illumination. Finally the next generation lunar ranging technologies as being implemented at Apache Point will be described. The proposed next generation of lunar packages will also be described.