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In the 1950s a small group of students and researchers working at Princeton University under Robert H Dicke probably first gave substance to the concept of what would become the technique of optical laser ranging In attempt to probe the fundamentals of gravity they suggested that powerful pulsed searchlights on the earth be used to illuminate optical corner retroreflectors placed upon an orbiting artificial earths satellites motion by photographing its position against the background of fixed stars The invention of the laser with its precise wavelength and beam divergence characteristics coupled with the technique of Q-Switching to produce laser pulse lengths on the order of only a few nanoseconds caused a re- thinking of the artificial satellite photography experiment and ushered in the era of optical laser ranging Procedures similar to those which were performed with microwave radars were upgraded to provide optical range measurements that had remarkable precision and accuracy The first such laser to target and return time of flight experiments were made at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland in the mid 1960s Lasers can be used in many different situations such as medical surgery welding and many others In this paper I will discuss lasers mainly as ranging devices Laser distance-measuring systems are used for surveying ground profile measurements gun fire ranging measurements altimeters space radars satellite and missile tracking and industrial machine tool control A laser ranging system is a distance-measuring device that operates by transmitting a short high power pulse toward the target A photodetector in the ranging system receives a reflection of the pulse By knowing the time interval required for the signal to travel from the transmitter to the target and back
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