Monday, February 25, 2008

Telescopes on Lunar FarSide 'Revived'

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer

"Not only would that avoid all the distortions and disturbances caused by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, but equally important, the moon's mass would block the noisy torrent of radio signals emanating from Earth. Only in the moon's radio "shadow" could the farseeing radio telescopes envisioned for the future pick up the extremely faint signals left over from the early universe, signals that would otherwise be drowned out by the broadcast barrage from Earth."

LNBLOG EDITORS NOTE: Some of us never stopped thinking about the Farside's "radio-quiet" as the place to begin direct and 400,000 kilometer long baseline interferometry. How, then, is this concept "revived?" And weren't Farside landings well within the capabilities of the Apollo Program, perhaps at Coriolis and other likely Farside equatorial spots? The problem of how to relay the data from such a site and the limitations placed on the instrument package by weight, 1969 sophistication and size would have presented quite a quandary. And high-end frequency communication we take for granted in the GHz range was barely the stuff of Extra-Class ham radio experiments at the time. Imagine, however, where the state of both radio astronomy and perhaps Lunar exploration might have been if this unoriginal idea had been followed through, at the expense of trusting experimental landings to astronauts with buggy, unimaginably slow computers without the aid of Houston's watchful eye. Though admittedly difficult, and a likely cause very high groundside anxiety, it still seems a Farside landing might well have been within the realm of possibility for Apollo -if it had been a priority.

As future problems arise (such as sticky questions like how to retrieve and restore the Apollo 11 ascent stage blow-over of the original American Flag placed at Tranquillity by Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin in July 1969, without disturbing those historic first foot prints) Lunar Networks will be asked to review present day news to discover such dilimia. In the case of the long-acknowledged distinctly anthropomorphic radio-quiet for radio astronomy on the Lunar Farside, how much of a problem will the inherently unstable orbits and spurious emissions from LPS/Cellular satellites needed for exploration of the Moon become for the planned (and important) Deep Space Radio Telescopes, and their controllers?

Answers to such questions are welcome.

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