With our hundreds of telescopes and observatories, both here on Earth and floating in space, we have an amazing view of the universe around us, but starting in 2015, we're going to be able to look where no telescope has showed us before — our own planet.
The International Lunar Observatory precursor (ILO-X) will be the first private telescope launched to the Moon, featuring an internet-access control system that will let anyone on Earth use it via their web browser, and, as suggested by the name, this telescope is just the precursor to a permanent telescope to be set at the Moon's south pole sometime after.
The telescope was commissioned by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA), and was designed and built by the private corporation Moon Express Inc. Representatives of both were on hand during the announcement of the project at the ILOA Galaxy Forum Canada 2013, in Vancouver on Saturday.
"The primary goal of the International Lunar Observatory is to expand human understanding of the Galaxy and Cosmos through observation from our Moon," said Steve Durst, the founder and director of the ILOA, in a press release. "We are extremely excited about sending the ILO-X to the Moon as soon as possible, and continuing our progress toward a permanent human presence on the Moon."
Moon Express is the company behind the Google Lunar X Prize Competition, which is pitting privately-funded teams against each other in a race to see who can be the first to land a robot rover on the surface of the Moon. The prizes for the winning team will total $30 million, but Moon Express hopes that the payoff for humanity will be much larger. It's their goal to develop new, privately-funded missions to the Moon, not only to develop the Moon for our benefit here on Earth, but also to establish a permanent presence on our natural satellite.
[ More Geekquinox: Precognitive robot learns to predict our future needs ]
The way the IOLA and Moon Express are going about this is perfect, too. Private industry will be able to drive space exploration far faster than public organizations, especially when it's done by companies that are dedicated to the goal, rather than governments whose resource are usually pulled in numerous different and competing directions. It's the involvement of the public that will get them even further, though.
We all saw Chris Hadfield's adventures on the International Space Station, as we checked out his Twitter feed for new photographs, and the Canadian Space Agency's YouTube channel for his latest videos. Having those views from orbit, and details about living in space, really got people's attention and caused renewed interest in the space program. By putting a telescope on the Moon, the public will be able to get a sneak-peak at the spectacular view they'd be afforded if they lived there or at least visited, generating a wave of interest for future lunar missions. Also, as an added bonus, having that awe-inspiring view may actually help us to save planet too.
(Photos courtesy: NASA, The Canadian Press/HO-Moon Express)
Geek out with the latest in science and weather.
Follow @ygeekquinox on Twitter!