Realizing the International Lunar Observatory
Several steps must still be taken along the way to the ILO’s realization. An ILO Advisory Committee has been formed, but it now must determine the mission objectives and specific wavelengths that will ensure that it receives strong support. Sponsors and funding for the mission must eventually be secured. Proposals must be written and submitted to various organizations capable of providing funding. Networking and word of mouth promotion must be done increasingly for better awareness. Besides these minor hurdles, there is nothing stopping the ILO’s realization, especially technically or conceptually. The ILO project will be especially successful if its manager / organizer, Space Age Publishing Company, is able to continue gaining the support of outstanding astrophysics and lunar exploration colleagues (such as those on Hawai‘i Island and in the International Lunar Exploration Working Group) and their expert advice.
The ILO Advisory Committee, which was formed at the close of 2004, will guide the ILO’s development, helping to raise public awareness, enlist space agencies’, foundations’, science and observatory centers’ support and generally “keep the ball rolling.” The committee includes members from the USA, Canada, Russia, Japan, India, The European Union, Hawai‘i and hopefully China, Chile and Australia before mid-2005. Committee members act as individuals, separate from their respective institutions or agencies. They are under minimal obligation and their names are not publicized without their consent. The task of achieving funding is not one of the ILO Advisory Committee’s present focuses.
The Phase-A and Phase-B studies have been paid for, but US$35 - $50 million must eventually be raised for the mission itself. It is a small sum when compared to the $2 billion Hubble Space Telescope or the $500 - 667 million James Webb Space Telescope, whose unserviceable lifetime will last only 5-10 years. The ILO’s funding could come from many sources. Any or all of the international space agencies could contribute to the mission cost. The eight largest agencies would only have to donate about $5 million apiece. Science foundations and philanthropic trusts also could make large contributions. Memorandums Of Understanding are currently being achieved with leading astronomical centers and institutions in order to obtain the best technical and professional advice possible. “Angel financing” (private contributions) from individuals or organizations could also tremendously benefit the ILO project.
Besides uncertain funding, the ILO could be placed on the Moon in the near future (mid-2007). The necessary technologies (parts, operations center, etc.), launch capabilities and developers are all available. SpaceDev, Inc. has worked out the logistics of the mission, finding it realistic with a worthy goal in an achievable timeframe.
Any support for the ILO – from the smallest donation of time to the largest monetary donation – will help it to achieve its mission and be greatly appreciated, possibly by future generations as well. It will certainly not be easy, but as John F. Kennedy said, nothing really worth doing ever is. We are pushing through with the ILO because it is hard, and we are seeking support from entities that look toward the new frontier and enjoy a good challenge.
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