From Space.com’s Astronotes - January 21
Robotic Lunar Observatory Studied
A private commercial space mission has been blueprinted in the form of a robotic observatory to conduct astronomy and astrophysics from the Moon.
The International Lunar Observatory (ILO) initiative envisions a multi-wavelength observatory that would stand about 10-feet (three-meters) in height, with communications and solar power gathering capabilities.
Engineering studies of the idea point to a modest $35 million to $50 million needed to plant ILO on the Moon. If those funds were soon available, the observatory could be parked on the Moon in the mid-2007 time frame. SpaceDev , Inc. of Poway , California has worked out the logistics of the mission, finding it realistic with a worthy goal in an achievable timeframe.
The ILO’s feasibility was detailed by a SpaceDev study team under contract with the Lunar Enterprise Corporation, an arm of Space Age Publishing Company (SPC) with offices in Kamuela , Hawaii and Palo Alto , California .
A pre-deployed lunar-based navigation beacon system would enable the ILO to fly to and softly set down at a specific lunar site with the accuracy of about 330 feet (100 meters) - made possible by using currently available commercial Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.
An ILO Advisory Committee has been formed, with members hailing from Canada , Japan , India , Russia , Europe , and across the United States . Additional members are currently being identified in China as well as other key global space and astrophysics centers.
This year, the ILO group will scope out the most meaningful scientific return possible from placement of a small robotic telescope at the lunar South Pole. The newly-formed ILO Advisory Committee “is challenged to establish a toe-hold for lunar base build-out,” says SPC founder Steve Durst.
-- Leonard David
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