NASA Wants to Put a Massive Telescope on the Moon

Graphic depiction of A Lunar Long-Baseline Optical Imaging Interferometer: Artemis-enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI). Credit: Kenneth Carpenter

As part of the Artemis Program, NASA intends to establish all the necessary infrastructure to create a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” This includes the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting habitat that will enable regular trips to and from the surface, and the Artemis Base Camp, which will permit astronauts to remain there for up to two months. Multiple space agencies are also planning on creating facilities that will take advantage of the “quiet nature” of the lunar environment, which includes high-resolution telescopes.

As part of this year’s NASA Innovative Advance Concepts (NIAC) Program, a team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has proposed a design for a lunar Long-Baseline Optical Imaging Interferometer (LBI) for imaging at visible and ultraviolet wavelengths. Known as the Artemis-enabled Stellar Imager (AeSI), this proposed array of multiple telescopes was selected for Phase I development. With a little luck, the AeSI array could be operating on the far side of the Moon, taking detailed images of stellar surfaces and their environments.

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There are Ideal Orbits for Space-Based Interferometers

Illustration showing the three LISA spacecraft which will be placed in orbits that form a triangular formation with center 20° behind the Earth and side length 5 million km. (The figure showing the formation is not to scale.)
Artist Impression of LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (Credit : NASA)

Ever since the telescope was invented in 1608, astronomers have striven for bigger and better telescopes. When it comes to instruments to observe the sky, bigger really is better whether you are observing faint galaxies or planets a larger collector gives higher resolution and brighter images. A paper recently published looks into different kinds of orbits around Earth which support multiple telescope systems known as interferometers at different orbits.

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