Milestone-Proposal:Detection of Radar Signals Reflected From the Moon, 1946

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Docket #:2016-02

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? No

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Detection of Radar Signals Reflected from the Moon, 1946

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Project Diana was the first contact with the moon using radar signals. On 10 January 1946, Lt. Colonel John DeWitt used an SCR-270 radar to send radar signals to the moon and detect their reflection

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE New Jersey Coast

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE New Jersey Coast
Senior Officer Name: {{{Senior officer name}}}

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE New Jersey Coast
Senior Officer Name: {{{Senior officer name}}}

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE New Jersey Coast
IEEE Section Chair name: {{{Section chair name}}}

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Newman Wilson
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Albert Kerecman
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

2300 Marconi Road Wall, New Jersey 07719

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The intended site of the milestone plaque is at the base of the tower that both transmitted the radar pulses and received the reflected signal from the moon.

Are the original buildings extant?

The base of the radar installation exists.

Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque is to be mounted on a plinth on the grounds at the remaining base of the tower.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The site is surrounded by a 10’ high chain link fence topped with barbed wire, a chain link pad-locked vehicle gate, and is protected by security cameras. The address of the plaque site is 2300 Marconi Road, Wall New Jersey 07719. The site is available to visitors from 1 PM to 5 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Special group tours can be arranged by calling InfoAge Science History and Learning Center at 732-280-3000.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Info-Age Learning Center, 2201 Marconi Road, Wall, NJ 07719.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

This Proof of Concept resolved doubts about whether Electromagnetic Waves suitable for long-range communication and RADAR could penetrate the Earth’s Ionosphere. This was the first experiment in radar astronomy and in actively probing another celestial body. This was the dawn of the space age, with Fort Monmouth personnel at Camp Evans, Site Diana, demonstrating the ability to communicate with extraterrestrial bodies beyond Earth. Measurements were made of surface roughness and mapping of shadowed regions, and provided the first crude information on the small scale topography of the moon. These results emboldened a series of ideas ranging from worldwide wireless communication, radar astronomy, artificial satellites, and rocket launched probes to the moon and planets.

Prior to the success of the experiment, wireless communication up to about 400 km was performed using “skywave” communication where signals were bounced off the atmosphere which was not limited by the curvature of the earth to a larger extent than line-of-sight communication. However, this method was restricted in the possible frequency range and data rate. Demonstrating that signals could travel from the earth to the moon and back was proof of concept for the idea of what is known as Earth-Moon-Earth (EME), or “moonbounce” communication. Following the success of the project, the US Navy set out to explore the implications and applications of this form of communication, the idea of a reliable, secure EME scheme. The first major milestone to this Passive Moon Relay project happened on July 24, 1954, where voice was successfully transmitted from Stump Neck, Maryland to Washington, DC. This success was then followed by another on November 20, 1955, where transmissions were sent to San Diego, California and soon after to Wahiawa, Hawaii. The system in its completed state began seeing use in 1960 and was expanded to accommodate ship-to-shore transmissions. In the later 1960s the system became obsolete due to the advent of artificial satellites in orbit to serve the same purpose. Radar Astronomy Before 1946, scientists observed the universe using large passive radio telescopes that caught and recorded radio waves emanating from the universe outside the earth’s atmosphere. This technique of passive reception was part of a field known as radio astronomy. Following the success of Project Diana, scientists had access to what is known as radar astronomy. Unlike radio astronomy, this technique is an active observation by reflecting microwaves off objects and analyzing the reflected signal, the same way that Project Diana had done to the moon. Radar astronomy has many advantages over previous forms of observation. The ability to control and measure the source of the transmission allowed scientists to extract information that was difficult to obtain before, such as composition and relativistic data. Since 1946, this technique has been used to gather a wealth of data about the geological and dynamic properties of many of the planets, moons, and asteroids that orbit our sun. Additionally, it has been used to determine the length of an astronomical unit and the scale of the solar system itself. Space Age Almost more importantly than any other benefit, the success of the project represented a symbol that lead to the beginning of the Space Age for the United States. Days after the success of the project, the New York Times commented that "somehow ... the moon and all the heavenly bodies become more real ... more than a guide to navigators and an inspiration to poets ... tangible objects to which we can reach out." For the first time in its history, the US was able to “touch the stars” so to speak, where it could communicate with objects and potentially beings well outside of its grasp up until that point. With this new found reach from a communications perspective, the US sought to extend that to a physical presence. In the early 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower was skeptical about the possibility of human spaceflight, although he did see promise in artificial satellites for commercial and military use. The stage was finally set when President John F. Kennedy set a goal of sending men to the moon by 1968. Detect and Control Guided Missiles Following the success of the project, the War Department talked about "radio control of missiles orbiting Earth above the stratosphere." Boosted US Morale This achievement brought hope for those previously engaged in the war effort to recommit themselves to peaceful endeavors.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Bandwidth Requirements LTC. DeWitt and his team had calculated that they needed a narrow bandwidth of 20 Hz on a 111.5 MHz signal to properly conduct the experiment. This meant that, as a base requirement to success, they needed to have a precision of almost 0.000009%, meaning a very stable system. This stability requirement far exceeded the usual requirements on most radars, so the team had to modify their receiver by replacing the three local oscillators with a single, crystal controlled source that was multiplied to provide the separate local oscillator frequencies needed and which also supplied control of the transmitter oscillator. The potential stability issues were magnified due to the relative motion of the moon and Earth, which would have caused a Doppler shift in frequency calculated to be +/-327 Hz, putting the receiving signal outside the band of a fixed tuner. Thus, they had to modify the last stage of the receiver to be able to tune the frequency and properly analyze it. Limitation on Antenna movement Due to the limitations in hardware, the antenna could only move in the azimuth (about the horizon), and could not be elevated. Because of this limitation, the team only had about half an hour each time the moon rose and set to conduct the experiment, as opposed to the entirety of its arc in the sky. This vastly decreased the amount of time to properly conduct the experiment. System components were being pushed At the facility, LTC. DeWitt’s team had access to old or insufficient hardware following the war. There were frequent reports of parts failing due to the stress the setup was putting on them. Political Some weren't convinced of its usefulness, and thought it was a waste of time and money. Once achieved, however, the doors opened to a new era - the space age was born.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

There are no prior documented similar achievements. Zoltan Bay and a Hungarian team achieved a similar result on February 6, 1946. Since their receiver did not have the sensitivity required, and their antenna did not have the gain needed to directly detect the reflected signal, they used an accumulating coulometer to acquire a 30 fold increase in the signal to noise ratio, producing a signal, post processing, 4% above the noise floor. Zoltan Bay acknowledged the prior accomplishment of Project Diana and authenticated it’s findings to be, in fact, correctly presented (see, “Reflection of Microwaves from the Moon”, Z. Bay,, article received 18th November 1946).

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

References: 1) Mofensen, J., “RADAR Echoes From the Moon”, Electronics, Volume 19, April 1946, pp 92 – 98. 2) Gootee, Tom (April 1946), “RADAR reaches the moon”, Radio News, Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., 35 (4), pp. 25 – 27. 3) Dewitt, J. H., Jr.: Stodola, E. K. (March 1949), “Detection of Radio Signals Reflected from the Moon”, Proceedings of the IRE, 37 (3) pp. 229 – 242. 4) 5) Butrica, Andrew J. (1996). To See the Unseen: A History of Planetary Radar Astronomy. NASA. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).