Space: What Now? Blog
Wednesday, March 9, 2005A Great Idea for a Participatory Space Mission
A space.com article led me to this website for the International Lunar Observatory. The project idea is a series of small antennas launched to the moon with their own support equipment, with the idea that they can be linked together to form an observatory. They've paid for a Phase A study done by Spacedev, who came back saying, essentially, that the project was feasible and that Spacedev could do it. (Big surprise on the second part) Be sure to check out the images they have of the system.8:34 pm est
Although there are some problems here, that I’ll get into in a minute, this has the makings of a tremendous participatory space project. Each craft would be a standalone effort, sent to the moon as part of a larger whole. The more antennas on the moon, the better return they’ll provide as a group, but there isn’t necessarily a "magic number" of stations making a pass/fail criteria.
Now for the problems. Based on the published designs, each craft would rely on the sun circling around it and staying up all the time. This kind of architecture is necessary due to the long (14 day) and punishingly cold (-150 degree C, -250 degree F) lunar night. They’ve chosen a south pole landing site for the mission, but the "eternal light" requirement pushes them to theoretical peaks on the south pole that always see the sun. The website says that they're awaiting SMART-1 images for such proof. OK, assuming that the peaks exist, now you have to land on them. This is possible, but would put a new level of precision landing into practice. The website discusses this, describing navigational beacons that would land in the designated area first.
Unfortunately, any other location on the moon would expose the craft to the lunar night. While the Apollo ALSEP packages ran for many lunar cycles, all but Apollo 11's were nuclear powered. Nuclear powered commercial spaceflight might be too much of a leap for a start. Another possibility is using small Radioisotope Heating Units to warm crtical portions of the small stations during the night.
To reiterate...I love the idea, and would love to help make it work. I'm just not sure how to do that right now.
Further browsing found this page that shows an optical-telescope configuration. Interferometry, anyone?
|Return to ILO News Page|