Lunar Laser Ranging

A tool for general relativity, lunar geophysics and Earth science

authored by
Jürgen Müller, Thomas W. Murphy, Ulrich Schreiber, Peter J. Shelus, Jean Marie Torre, James G. Williams, Dale H. Boggs, Sebastien Bouquillon, Adrien Bourgoin, Franz Hofmann

Only a few sites on Earth are technically equipped to carry out Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) to retroreflector arrays on the surface of the Moon. Despite the weak signal, they have successfully provided LLR range data for about 49 years, generating about 26,000 normal points. Recent system upgrades and new observatories have made millimeter-level range accuracy achievable. Based on appropriate modeling and sophisticated data analysis, LLR is able to determine many parameters associated with Earth–Moon dynamics, involving the lunar ephemeris, lunar physics, the Moon’s interior, reference frames and Earth orientation parameters. LLR has also become one of the strongest tools for testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the solar system. By extending the standard solution, it is possible to solve for parameters related to gravitational physics, like the temporal variation of the gravitational constant, metric parameters as well as the strong equivalence principle, preferred-frame effects and standard-model extensions. This paper provides a review about LLR measurement and analysis. After a short historical overview, we describe the key findings of LLR, the apparatus and technologies involved, the requisite modeling techniques, some recent results and future prospects on all fronts. We expect continued improvements in LLR, maintaining its lead in contributing to science.

Institute of Geodesy
External Organisation(s)
University of California at San Diego
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
University of Texas at Austin
Observatoire Côte d'Azur
Observatoire de Paris (OBSPARIS)
PSL Research University
Universite Paris 6
University of Bologna
California Institute of Caltech (Caltech)
Journal of geodesy
No. of pages
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Geophysics, Geochemistry and Petrology, Computers in Earth Sciences
Electronic version(s) (Access: Closed)