Lunar Shape via the Apollo Laser Altimeter

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Science  19 Jan 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4070, pp. 275-278
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4070.275


Data from the Apollo 15 and Apollo 16 laser altimeters reveal the first accurate elevation differences between distant features on both sides of the moon. The large far-side depression observed in the Apollo 15 data is not present in the Apollo 16 data. When the laser results are compared with elevations on maps from the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, differences of 2 kilometers over a few hundred kilometers are detected in the Mare Nubium and Mare Tranquillitatis regions. The Apollo 16 data alone would put a 2-kilometer bulge toward the earth; however, the combined data are best fit by a sphere of radius 1737.7 kilometers. The offset of the center of gravity from the optical center is about 2 kilometers toward the earth and 1 kilometer eastward. The polar direction parameters are not well determined.