NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Laser Geodynamics Satellite (LAGEOS) I. This satellite is an aluminium-covered brass sphere with a diameter of 60 centimetres and is covered with retro-reflectors (circles). It carries no instruments, instead being a very low orbiting target for lasers fired from Earth ground stations. The time it takes for the laser beams to be reflected back to Earth allow a number of measurements to be made, including the planet's shape and the movement of tectonic plates associated with continental drift. LAGEOS 1 was launched on 4th May 1976.
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