Amazing space project - turn lunar craters into a radio telescope

Amazing space project - turn lunar craters into a radio telescope
Amazing space project - turn lunar craters into a radio telescope

Humanity's interest in the moon is growing again. China, Russia, the United States and many other countries are developing programs to study this natural satellite of the Earth. For example, NASA announced a project for a giant radio telescope on the far side of the moon. It will be installed on one of the craters, and robots will be engaged in its construction.

Large telescope in the lunar crater

More than 50 years have passed since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, but now it is again in the center of our attention.

In 2019, the Chinese apparatus "Chang'e-4" was the first in the history of mankind to successfully land on the far side of the moon. Moreover, at the end of last year, "Chang'e-5" delivered lunar soil samples to Earth. This took place 44 years after a similar mission carried out by the Soviet interplanetary station "Luna-24" in 1976.

In October this year, 45 years after "Luna-24", the eponymous interplanetary station "Luna-25" should go to the Moon.

Meanwhile, the US space agency NASA plans to land astronauts on the moon under the Artemis project in 2024. On April 16, it was announced that it had signed a contract with Elon Musk's SpaceX to develop a spacecraft that will once again deliver the Americans to the moon.

Great hopes are pinned on it both as a new landmark and as an intermediate stage for flights to Mars. At the same time, there are people who are attracted by the Moon as a place from which to explore space, inaccessible to observations from our planet.

Roboticist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay has proposed building a radio telescope in a crater on the far side of the moon. The point is to stretch a wire mesh over a crater with a diameter of three to five kilometers to form a parabolic antenna, and hang the radio receiver from a cable extending from the outer circumference to the center of the crater.

Robots will be used to install the wire mesh and cable, which will be able to climb the walls of the crater.

This radio telescope in a lunar crater was selected as a NASA Advanced Innovation Concept (NIAC) program in April 2020, and a phase two transition took place in April this year.

So far, the concept is only at the stage of study. It has not yet become an official NASA mission, but a more detailed design of the telescope will be discussed with the support of NIAC.

“If all goes well, it will be the largest radio telescope in the solar system,” Bandyopadhyay said enthusiastically.

A telescope in the lunar crater will investigate the cosmic waves that began to spread after the Big Bang. These waves block other radiation that is on Earth, so Earth's radio telescopes do not pick up them. In addition, the dense atmosphere and ionosphere covering the Earth also interferes with observations.

In turn, the Moon is always facing the Earth with one side. Therefore, various noise waves do not reach its shadow side. The satellite itself blocks them. Also, there is no atmosphere that interferes with research.

There are other projects to build a radio telescope on the far side of the moon. The idea of ​​observing weak radio waves emitted by the magnetic fields of exoplanets was proposed. The magnetic field shields cosmic rays, so the likelihood of the existence of life on the planet is high.

A project for exploration of the Moon itself

Some scientists want not only to use the moon as a research platform, but also to make it itself an object of scientific research.

Jan Harms' team from the Gran Sasso National Laboratory published a scientific paper in The Astrophysical Journal on March 22, proposing to detect gravitational waves using the moon.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time created by collisions such as black holes. Einstein's theory of relativity assumed their existence, but they were first confirmed only in 2015 thanks to the LIGO gravitational wave detector.

LIGO uses a laser to detect them. When gravitational waves bend space and time, it affects laser beams traveling in parallel.

In turn, Kharms's team suggested using the vibrations created by gravitational waves.

In fact, this idea appeared a long time ago. In the 1960s, American physicist Joseph Weber developed a laboratory device that captures vibrations from gravitational waves. Moreover, he suggested that the Moon and Earth should also vibrate due to these waves.

The Apollo 17 spacecraft installed a gravitational wave detection device developed by Weber on the moon. Nevertheless, due to some technological flaws, it did not function correctly.

Kharms' team proposed to install four seismometers on the Moon, which will measure even the smallest vibrations of the satellite. They should help detect evidence of lunar vibrations generated by gravitational waves.

This lunar system will be able to detect gravitational waves of a different frequency, which are not available to the LIGO detector. In addition, unlike the Earth, the Moon has no atmosphere and seas, and it also has weak seismic activity, so a small amount of vibration noise is another plus.

Harms and his colleagues proposed integrating their idea into the European Space Agency's project to create a lunar rover.

Space exploration with the help of the Moon covers many problems: the influence of meteorites and cosmic rays, the provision of power supplies, repairs, and so on.

But there is another problem as well. The lunar surface area is slightly larger than Africa, but the area suitable for exploration is limited. This small area can be overwhelmed, since there will be not only space exploration, but also the construction of lunar bases, resource exploration and much more.

Some scientists believe that this may soon create friction. At this rate, the quiet lunar world will become a thing of the past. I hope that space exploration with the help of the Moon will be realized before then.

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