It’s a big week for our moon, Earthlings. Yesterday was the 44th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps onto the lunar surface. It was confirmed that the Saturn V rockets the Bezos Expeditions recovered from the Atlantic Ocean floor are indeed from the Apollo 11 aircraft. And now, the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express, Inc. have just announced a mission to the Moon’s South Pole, which they hope will happen as early as 2016. The goal: capturing Moon penguins. (Not really.)
“We are very excited to our announce that our second Moon mission will be to the lunar South Pole to deliver the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) and to prospect for resources,” said Moon Express CEO Dr. Robert Richards during NASA’s Lunar Science Institute conference at the Ames Research Center. “The mission will provide a historic landing in an unexplored region of the Moon that may harbor some of the greatest resource deposits in the solar system.”
The ILO is essentially a communications telescope at this point, a permanent source of information to be housed on the moon itself. It will house a 2-meter dish antenna and utilize an “Internet-based access and control system,” all of which will be powered by solar panels, which should feasibly keep it in working order for quite a while. This will be the first private telescope to offer a view of the moon, and the first time this area of the lunar landscape will be extensively researched. Both teams are hoping to make big discoveries as far as mineral resources and potential water deposits.
“The ILO will demonstrate the value of the Moon for scientific study of the Galaxy, Moon, Earth, Sun and Stars,” said Steve Durst, founder and director of the ILOA. While that claim is pretty lofty, it’s definitely possible, assuming there is an atlas of the universe hidden beneath the moon dust.
Earlier this year, the NASA-contracted Moon Express and ILOA announced their first venture together will be a a preliminary mission to send up the International Lunar Observatory Precursor (ILO-X). The shoebox-sized telescope is scheduled to begin its journey to the moon in 2015, should all things go accordingly. This telescope will also work via the Internet, and allow anyone in the world to access the gorgeous views that it will capture. In this way, they’re turning everyone into amateur astronomers. The ILO-X can be seen below.
So is the south pole the dark side of the moon, or what? I can never tell. To help me out, here’s Pink Floyd.