It was my wife's first (and probably only)
appearance on Mythbusters. Apparently they had heard of lasers being bounced off the retroreflectors and were interested in building their own telescope and laser bounce system.
Needless to say, not a very viable concept.
I don't know how much it cost to build the telescope and observatory, but I think the mirror by itself represents a million dollars US. It also takes over a year to get a mirror made when you're looking at that size.
Somehow they called the observatory and eventually ended up taping there.
The observatory is owned by a consortium of universities and managed by New Mexico State. Each university pays X dollars and gets Y time on the sky scheduled, but there's frequent loss of nights due to weather or equipment problems. The observatory is over 10 years old since "first light", I don't know how long it took to build out.
The APOLLO laser is mainly a UCSD project, but University of Washington and Harvard are also involved along with NASA and Space Command (my wife regularly emails with a military guy whose job title is Space Battle Commander).
You might be able to find the segment on the Discovery Channel web site, but I couldn't in the limited amount of time that I had to look. I know the segment was on YouTube, they used to have it linked on the observatory's web site, but it doesn't seem to be up right now.
-----Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves or we know where we can find information upon it. --Samuel Johnson