Wednesday, August 9, 2017

International Lunar Observatory to Offer a New Astrophysical Perspective

Artist's illustration of the International Lunar Observatory on the south pole of the moon. Image Credit: Michael Carroll/ILOA

Planned to be sent to the south pole of the moon in 2019, the International Lunar Observatory is expected to conduct the first international astrophysical observations from the lunar surface. The mission managers hope that it will offer a brand new astrophysical perspective for scientists worldwide.

The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express has recently inked a deal for the landing of the first International Lunar Observatory on the moon. Under this contract, the mission named ILO-1, will be landed on the Malapert Mountain, a 3.1-mile tall peak in the Aitken Basin region that is bathed in sunshine most of the time and has an uninterrupted direct line of sight to Earth.

ILOA states that the main goal of the mission is to “expand human understanding of the cosmos through observation from the moon”. To achieve this, ILO-1 will be equipped in a set of instruments for radio and optical astronomy purposes.

“The observatory payload includes the possible primary instrument, a two-meter dish antenna - for observation and communications functions – as well as potential secondary instruments such as an optical telescope, star finder, ultra-violet camera or others. The ILO-1 can be scaled to fit final project budget and is designed to be adaptable to various launch vehicle providers and spacecraft platforms,” Steve Durst, Founding Director of ILOA, told Astrowatch.net.

The payload of the ILO-1 mission will be provided by Toronto-based Canadensys Aerospace Corporation. The instruments will allow the observatory to image our Milky Way galaxy and to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface.

The launch of the mission is currently scheduled for no earlier than 2019. While the spacecraft and its payload will be built by commercial companies, the mission itself might be launched into space by the Indian government - the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), most likely atop its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) - the talks are underway. Durst underlines that the ILO-1 mission is indeed a real international effort.

“Right now the ILO-1 project includes a globally distinguished board of directors, day to day functioning executive committee, spacecraft contractor (Moon Express), a payload contractor (Canadensys Aerospace), a launch provider (India’s PSLV), cooperative memorandum of understanding with the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC), and an operating partnership comprised of international organizations, agencies, and institutions who are participating in the mission,” he noted.

Durst revealed that ILO-1 is being designed to be able to sustain itself through the lunar night. Therefore, it could potentially continue to operate for multiple Earth months or even years independently on the lunar surface. Moreover, it could be also potentially serviced and upgraded by subsequent human missions to the moon.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This is really good to know and being a student of astronomy, I hope that this post will be much helpful for me to figure out different things that I never knew before.

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