24 July 2017 News

First lunar observatory for Moon's south pole in 2019

Image: MoonExpress/Google X-Prize
Image: MoonExpress/Google X-Prize

A collaboration for the delivery of the first International Lunar Observatory, known as ILO-1, to the Moon's south pole by 2019 has been agreed by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express.

The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA), is a non-profit interglobal enterprise incorporated in Hawaii who advocate that, “the primary goal of the ILO mission is to expand human understanding of the cosmos through observation from our moon."

The announcement by the two parties state that “the ILO-1 astrophysical observatory and research station will be the world’s first instrument to image the Milky Way Galaxy and to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface.”

While the words ‘Lunar Observatory’ and ‘astrophysical observatory and research station’ conjure up ideas of a manned space station complete with an Earth-like atmosphere – you know, like the ones we see in the movies – it would seem that for the moment at least, the observatory relates to an instrument.

Not much has been said about the exact nature of the instrument, but the ILOA say that a Moon Express robotic explorer system will deliver the ILO-1 to a place on the lunar south pole that is bathed in almost continuous sunshine and where the ILO-1 would have a 24/7 direct line of sight to Earth as well as to Shackleton Crater for communications.

This ‘peak of eternal light’ that ILOA have in mind is a 5 kilometre tall peak in the Aitken Basin region called Malapert Mountain and Moon Express, who are the prime mission contractor providing delivery to the lunar surface, will use this as an opportunity to explore the Moon’s south pole for mineral resources and water.

Moon Express has already hit the headlines when it announced that the company had a multi-mission launch contract with Rocket Lab for up to five launches starting in 2017 – the first company in history to secure such a contract at the time. And according to the Moon Express website its first mission is still on schedule to launch by the end of this year as part of its plans to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

ILO-1 is being developed by ILOA and Canadensys Aerospace of Canada and advanced landing technologies that include precision landing and hazard avoidance are currently under development to facilitate the mission.

Speaking of the recent ILO-1 announcement, ILOA founder and director, Steve Durst said; “we are extremely excited to work with Moon Express to establish a presence on the Moon in 2019, the 50th anniversary year of Apollo 11."

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