January 10, 1946: Project Diana

Tuesday, January 10, AD 2017

Scientific advances from World War II revolutionized our world and beyond.  Sixty-one years ago the experiment of the United States Army Signal Corps, called Project Diana, in bouncing radar signals off the moon bore fruit.  Radar took 2.5 seconds to make the round trip of almost half a million miles.  Thus radar astronomy, along with the United States space program, was born.  Careful calculations had to be made each day to account for the Doppler effect.  Moonbounce radio communication is still used by some amateur radio operators.

E. King Stodola, the scientist who served as the technical director for the project, recalled it in 1979 during an interview conducted by his daughter, Cindy Stodola Pomerleau:

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7 Responses to January 10, 1946: Project Diana

  • “But it was a very significant…”
    Ideed it was. Our understanding of the size of the universe is a series of calculations of multiple steps, the first step being the size of the earth’s orbit around the sun. Thanks to the observations of the transits of Mercury and Venus across the face of the sun we had some idea of the true value of our orbit’s size. This radar technology was soon extended beyond the moon to the planets and near-earth asteroids of the inner solar system, and so we ended with a much better value to use. Observations such as those of the Hubble Space Telescope are valuable but would be less so without this technology.

  • If they could muster up enough power to send a signal all the way to our NEAREST star, Alpha Proxima,, it would be a round trip of EIGHT AND ONE HALF YEARS !
    Timothy R.

  • Yes, Timothy, which is why radar observations beyond the inner solar system will likely never happen, let alone outside the solar system. Inverse square law of radiation.
    But, since we know the size of the earth’s orbit, parallax observations of Alpha and Proxima Centauri give us their distance well enough.

  • I calculated once how long it would take our fastest spacecraft to reach Alpha or Proxima. It involves so many thousands of years, one way, that, unless wormholes do exist, and we find a way to use them, we
    ain’t going nowhere !
    Timothy R.

  • We actually have an idea of how to make wormholes (as in, we had an idea of how to split atoms in 1920). What we haven’t figured out yet is how to move the other end of the wormhole to where you want it. As it stands right now this ‘idea’ would only get us to the other side of the room. But hey, it’s a start.

    Actually, we can with nearly current technology reach about 1/3 or the speed of light, so the nearest stars are ‘only’ two centuries away at the most. This is true even if the EM drive being tested now doesn’t work; if it does then future ships won’t need fuel other than than for electricity. The real problem is we can’t build this stuff economically without better robotic technology, and that technology just might get us killed.

  • I’m still fascinated with the idea of using a gigantic SAIL ! Think of it ! Sailing ships would be back in vogue !
    Timothy R.

  • And besides, TomD, I would risk my life for a chance to see a faraway World, a place that hasn’t been spoiled by man.
    Timothy R.