Long lost Soviet rover discovered on the moon's surface

The Russian-built Lunokhod 1 became the first remote controlled rover to land on another planet when it touched down on the lunar surface in 1970. It managed to continually operate for 11 months — opening up the lid of its tub-like body to reveal a solar panel when in the sun, and using a radioactive heater to keep warm in the dark — which means it would have been rolling around even as the Apollo 14 and 15 manned missions explored the moon's surface. After those 11 months, it lost contact with its ground controllers back in the Soviet Union.

Well, it looks like the Lunokhod 1 has turned back up, spotted thanks to a French-made reflector the rover sports, which was installed for this very reason: spotting it as it moved around. In practice, however, it's been very hard to pinpoint, and no one knew where the Lunokhod 1 was since it dropped out of contact.

Professor Tom Murphy, leading a team in California tasked with coming up with a precise measurement of the moon's orbit (and thereby further testing Einstein's theory of general relativity), is ecstatic at being able to shine some light on what the Lunokhod rover has been up to: "We yearned to find Lunokhod-1," he told The Register. "It would provide the best leverage for understanding the liquid lunar core, and for producing an accurate estimate of the position of the center of the moon--which is of paramount importance in mapping out the orbit and putting Einstein's gravity to a test."

"It's got a lot to say after almost 40 years of silence," Murphy added. He and his team are using a 3.5-meter telescope and a laser to pinpoint the rover's position on the surface on the moon.

Via The Register