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Moon Memories: Eugene man's special connection to Apollo 11

In July 1969 Bernard Bopp was a graduate student and worked on the Lunar Ranging Project for the Apollo 11 mission.

Posted: Jul 17, 2019 6:48 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Like many others of his generation, Eugene resident Dr. Bernard Bopp remembers exactly where he was when Neal Armstrong first walked on the moon -- the McDonald Observatory in west Texas.

In July 1969 Bopp was a graduate student and worked on the Lunar Ranging Project for the Apollo 11 mission.

"I look back on it from a perspective of 50 years now, and it was one the best things I did in my entire life," Bopp said.

RELATED: EUGENE SCIENCE CENTER CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF APOLLO 11 MOON LANDING

Along with leaving footprints on the moon, Neal Armstong and Buzz Aldren also left a small device on the moon called a retroreflector.

It's no bigger than a briefcase and has dozens of small, special mirrors on it. Back on earth Bopp and the rest of the Lunar Ranging team were able to shoot lasers from the observatory to measure the distance between the moon and the earth more accurately.

With the retroreflector not needing power, Bopp said scientists are still using it to this day, and their measurements have gotten more precise.

"We were able to measure the moon's distance with our laser to about a few inches," Bopp said. "Modern lasers can do it even better, about a few millimeters."

Bopp went on to work with NASA on a few other projects and taught Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toledo in Ohio. He hopes the renewed interest in the Apollo 11 missions inspires the next generation of scientists.

"It was inspiring, and I hope it inspires many younger people today," Bopp said.

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