LNEDNOTE: The poster below obviously isn't looking very hard for the news about MIT's Farside Radio Astronomy project, and from what follows appears also to have failed even to read MIT's original News Release: LARC is tentatively planned as strikingly simple, robot-deployed project. Also, the final $1 Billion price tag picked from thin air, apparently, is based on the development of the kind of robot that will eventially be needed throughout the field of Selenology, and in the immediate future. It is also less than the cost of a single Shuttle flight. (Anyone for Mass production, perhaps on the Moon itself? It would certainly be cheaper than lobbing them up and out of Earth's Gravity Well.)
Put more simply, Farside radio astronomy is coming, sooner or later. LARC will be only the beginning of what is bound to become a intregral part of a new, incredibly sensitive and practical space-based, Earth-based and Moon-based Ultra-Ultra Long Baseline Interferometry and new Deep Space Network.
ORIGINAL POST: MIT has a press release out saluting itself for winning part of a $500,000 grant to scope out a plan by some of its astronomy and physics professors to install, on the quiet side of the moon (away from civilization’s electromagnetic cacophony), a scattering of radio receivers. It’d be LARC, for Lunar Array for Radio Cosmology. There they would pick up long wavelength emissions left over from the early universe’s dark ages. That’s the span between the fading of the big bang’s explosive glow and the appearance of starry galaxies. One might learn clues to how early mass fluctuations organized themselves on a large scale.
This would neatly fill a hole in astronomy’s instrument lineup. Not many outlets, so far, have picked it up - and there’s no big reason to give such a tentative exploration of a possible project big play. The Tracker could find but two stories, each just this side of a brief.
But those of us of suspicious mind might enjoy some deeper inspection of this plan, one of several proposals knocking about and given longterm analysis money by NASA recently. The question is whether the proposal in any way would depend on, or just benefit from, astronauts as construction workers and maybe as technician-repair crews. Which is to say, is there any way such a worthy, if costly (estimated $1 billion) project’s prospects will get tangled up in NASA’s Constellation program to get people back on the moon? It is an ambition that seems sure to get reinspection upon arrival of a new administration in less than a year. More generally, the whole, winding and roundabout way that NASA’s mega-dollar projects go from blue-sky idea to launch pad could use a little more, if only occasional, media attention.
And MIT's Knight Science Tracker sets the record straight well today HERE.