In the TV show "Big Bang Theory" episode "The Lunar Excitation", the gang fires a laser from their rooftop, bounces it off mirrors on the moon, and measures the laser coming back on a computer.

Is this really possible?

I know scientists have successfully done this, because it's why NASA put the mirrors on the moon.

Wouldn't this require very precise targeting by the laser to hit the mirrors?

My question is, is it possible for an amateur to successfully perform this experiment?


1 Answer 1


This experiment is still done frequently, but you need a powerful pulsed laser, precise pointing (error below about 20 arc seconds) and a sensitive detector.

Amateurs will fail most likely, because they won't get access to an appropriate equipment.

Here is a youtube video, which may give an impression of how difficult it is to perform the experiment.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ After watching that video. No way anyone could do this in their own backyard. $\endgroup$
    – Reactgular
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ Amateurs can do this with radio waves. You can use the entire surface of the Moon as a reflector youtu.be/0zTtAq6lk0c $\endgroup$
    – Swike
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ I would add that the power of laser required to do this would need careful safety procedures. Possibly including a notice to airmen for the time that it is being fired into the atmosphere. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 8:30

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