Spiders are everywhere

September 11, 2019


When we say, "Spiders are everywhere," we really mean it. 

The University of Richmond has a place of honor in this historic photograph that Neil Armstrong took of Buzz Aldrin during the first moon landing 50 years ago. The piece of equipment in Aldrin’s right hand, called the Laser Ranging Retroreflector, was developed by a Spider and still returns data from the moon today.

It is essentially a box of mirrors. Carroll Alley, R’48, the project’s principal investigator, explained its purpose in a 2009 interview: “Using these mirrors we can ‘ping’ the moon with laser pulses and measure the Earth-moon distance very precisely.”

In a press release marking Alley’s death in  2016, NASA said the data about the motions of the moon and Earth has been used to study gravity, relativity, and a variety of other questions. “The experiments are also far from over,” the release added. “Studies using this reflector are expected to continue for years, maybe even centuries.”

Buzz Aldrin, carrying the Laser Ranging Retroreflector, developed by Carroll Alley.