It's been over 40 years since we last paid a visit to our moon, but thanks to a partnership between two private space companies, we could be going back in very soon. Moon Express, Inc. and the International Lunar Observatory Association have announced plans to plant a telescope on the moon in order to get never-before-seen photos of the universe.
The plan is to launch the telescope sometime in 2015 or 2016 and set it on top of the rim of a crater that's three miles above the moon's surface near the south pole. This will be the first time that we've ever sent a spacecraft to the south pole, as well as the first time that a telescope will be planted on it.
Moon Express, Inc. is a contender for the $30 million Google Lunar Xprize to land a robot on the moon, while the International Lunar Observatory Association is a non-profit organization working on establishing a permanent colony on the moon. The partnership between these two companies brings together different expertises in order to put such a telescope on the moon.
Perhaps what'll be most impressive is that the telescopes will be able to be controlled by the public. We're not sure exactly how it'll work, but Moon Express says that it'll provide "a new model of citizen science." The idea seems to be similar to the recent Kickstarter project ARKYD, which will put a telescope in space to allow users to take their own photos of faraway galaxies.
However, there are many concerns about the telescope on the moon. For starters, the temperatures could pose a problem, with both hot and cold temperatures reaching extreme levels on the south pole. Plus, the difficulty in maintaining the telescope could also be an issue. However, Moon Express says that the entire mission will cost around $100 million - certainly not cheap, but also not as expensive as we were expecting.