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      Space-based tests of gravity with laser ranging

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          Abstract

          Existing capabilities in laser ranging, optical interferometry and metrology, in combination with precision frequency standards, atom-based quantum sensors, and drag-free technologies, are critical for the space-based tests of fundamental physics; as a result, of the recent progress in these disciplines, the entire area is poised for major advances. Thus, accurate ranging to the Moon and Mars will provide significant improvements in several gravity tests, namely the equivalence principle, geodetic precession, PPN parameters \(\beta\) and \(\gamma\), and possible variation of the gravitational constant \(G\). Other tests will become possible with development of an optical architecture that would allow proceeding from meter to centimeter to millimeter range accuracies on interplanetary distances. Motivated by anticipated accuracy gains, we discuss the recent renaissance in lunar laser ranging and consider future relativistic gravity experiments with precision laser ranging over interplanetary distances.

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          Most cited references 17

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          A test of general relativity using radio links with the Cassini spacecraft.

           B Bertotti,  L Iess,  P Tortora (2003)
          According to general relativity, photons are deflected and delayed by the curvature of space-time produced by any mass. The bending and delay are proportional to gamma + 1, where the parameter gamma is unity in general relativity but zero in the newtonian model of gravity. The quantity gamma - 1 measures the degree to which gravity is not a purely geometric effect and is affected by other fields; such fields may have strongly influenced the early Universe, but would have now weakened so as to produce tiny--but still detectable--effects. Several experiments have confirmed to an accuracy of approximately 0.1% the predictions for the deflection and delay of photons produced by the Sun. Here we report a measurement of the frequency shift of radio photons to and from the Cassini spacecraft as they passed near the Sun. Our result, gamma = 1 + (2.1 +/- 2.3) x 10(-5), agrees with the predictions of standard general relativity with a sensitivity that approaches the level at which, theoretically, deviations are expected in some cosmological models.
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            Lunar laser ranging: a continuing legacy of the apollo program.

            On 21 July 1969, during the first manned lunar mission, Apollo 11, the first retroreflector array was placed on the moon, enabling highly accurate measurements of the Earthmoon separation by means of laser ranging. Lunar laser ranging (LLR) turns the Earthmoon system into a laboratory for a broad range of investigations, including astronomy, lunar science, gravitational physics, geodesy, and geodynamics. Contributions from LLR include the three-orders-of-magnitude improvement in accuracy in the lunar ephemeris, a several-orders-of-magnitude improvement in the measurement of the variations in the moon's rotation, and the verification of the principle of equivalence for massive bodies with unprecedented accuracy. Lunar laser ranging analysis has provided measurements of the Earth's precession, the moon's tidal acceleration, and lunar rotational dissipation. These scientific results, current technological developments, and prospects for the future are discussed here.
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              Relativity parameters determined from lunar laser ranging

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                17 November 2006
                Article
                10.1142/S0218271807011838
                gr-qc/0611095
                Custom metadata
                Int.J.Mod.Phys.D16:2165-2179,2007
                14 pages, 2 figures, 1 table. To appear in the proceedings of the International Workshop "From Quantum to Cosmos: Fundamental Physics Research in Space", 21-24 May 2006, Warrenton, Virginia, USA http://physics.jpl.nasa.gov/quantum-to-cosmos/
                gr-qc

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