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Session 71 - Space Astronomy in the Next Millennium.
Display session, Wednesday, January 17
North Banquet Hall, Convention Center

[71.06] New Technology Lunar Astronomy Mission

P. C. Chen (CSC), R. J. Oliversen, R. K. Barry (NASA GSFC), R. Romeo (CMA), R. Pitts (CSC), K. B. Ma (UH)

A scientifically productive Moon-based observatory can be established in the near term (3-5 years) by robotic spacecraft. Such a project is affordable even taking into account NASA's currently very tight budget. In fact the estimated cost of a lunar telescope is sufficiently low that it can be financed by private industry, foundations, or wealthy individuals. The key factor is imaginative use of new technologies and new materials. Since the Apollo era, many new areas of space technology have been developed in the US by NASA, the military, academic and industry sectors, ESA, Japan, and others. These include ultralite optics, radiation tolerant detectors, precision telescope drives incorporating high temperature superconductors, smart materials, active optics, dust and thermal control structures, subminiature spectrometers, tiny radio transmitters and receivers, small rockets, innovative fuel saving trajectories, and small precision landers. The combination of these elements makes possible a lunar observatory capable of front line astrophysical research in UV-Vis-IR imaging, spectrometry, and optical interferometry, at a per unit cost comparable to that of Small Explorer (SMEX) class missions. We describe work in progress at NASA GSFC and elsewhere, applications to other space projects, and spinoff benefits to ground-based astronomy, industry, and education.

Program listing for Wednesday