Space.com's 50 Years After Apollo, India Is Carrying a NASA Laser Reflector to the Moon (And It's Only the Start) is a little confusing because it talks about three retroreflectors: - Apollo era retroreflector arrays - Vikram microreflector - Next Generation Lunar Reflector (NGLR)

Question: What exactly is a "Next Generation Lunar Reflector" and how does it differ in design and performance from all other retroreflector designs used or planned for use on or near the Moon? What is it that makes them so Next Generation-esque?

Dell'Agnello is leading the research team on the Vikram microreflector and is a co-investigator working on the upcoming Next Generation Lunar Reflector (NGLR) for NASA's Artemis program. The "next-gen retroreflectors are much more compact and lighter than Apollo's meter-size arrays deployed by Apollo 11, 14 and 15 astronauts," Dell'Agnello added.

enter image description here The Next Generation Lunar Reflector retroreflector (left) next to its Apollo-era predecessor (right).


1 Answer 1


Because it's bigger? Otherwise seems to be a standard corner reflector. Upon googling I came across this which gives a good description of the differences between the original and TNG reflectors. According to Forbes,

The most important innovation consists of changing from a panel of small cube corner retroreflectors (CCRs) to a single large CCR. The NGLR’s CCR is special fused silica glass that also has fewer internal imperfections than the silica used for the Apollo CCRs.

  • $\begingroup$ Still I wonder why one big one is better than several smaller ones. Per the square-cube law the single big one will be heavier than a set of smaller ones with the same area. The lower imperfections is interesting but that may have been necessary because of the much larger volume and longer path length within the glass, or possibly to make it more robust against the large thermal excursions on the Moon. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 27, 2019 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ possibly helpful concepts: Planetary Society's LightSail Spacecraft's corner cube reflectors; how large, and corrected for aberration? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 27, 2019 at 13:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ a panel of small reflectors will have slightly different distances to the source/receiver, so will "blur" the pulse across time @uhoh $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Jul 27, 2019 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM that's a good point! As noted here time dispersion due to tilt wrt/ incident beam is a big problem. The problem is solved for Earth-bases beams by carefully tilting each array as shown in photos (with lunar lat/long values) in this question but these tilts would be worse than useless for beams from a lunar orbiter. I think that plus effects mentioned in my previous comment may be the answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 27, 2019 at 22:25

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