Two entities, the International Lunar Observatory Association and startup moon Express, are planning to put a new space telescope near the south pole of the moon.
The lunar location the team has chosen–perched 5 kilometers above the ground on the edge of the huge Malapert crater–is ideal. It allows the team to collect solar power to drive the space telescope’s systems, and its local temperature is a relatively cozy average of about -50 celsius. This location also allows line-of-sight communication with Earth, which lowers the cost of the support network needed for more remote observatories. It’s also a perfect place to shield the space telescope from humankind’s various emissions from Earth, which can interfere with sensitive observations. The moon’s southern regions are suspected to be mineral-rich and have stores of water, so the team plans to send a lunar rover up with its telescope systems.
The team plans to raise about $100 million to fund its plan, and $20 million of this might come from the Moon Express entry to the Google Lunar X Prize, which hopefully will see a probe carrying a tiny prototype of the planned space telescope land on the moon in 2015.