Blue Origin could land a futuristic telescope on the Moon in one go
After the roaring success of SpaceX in launching private space missions, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin might have its big moment when it lands a futuristic radio telescope on the side of the Moon, probably by 2030, Forbes reported.
Although Blue Origin was founded a good two years before SpaceX, Bezos's space venture hasn't managed to be a commercial success story thus far. To its credit, Blue Origin has some commercial space tourism missions. But these do not come with the same bragging rights as putting hundreds of satellites with a single launch and supporting internet services in war-torn Ukraine. This might change when Blue Origin put an array of radio telescopes on the Far Side of the Moon, probably in a decade.
What is FARSIDE? What will it do?
The Farside Array for Radio Science Investigation of the Dark Ages and Exoplanets, or simply FARSIDE, is an array of low-frequency telescopes that astronomers want to put on the far side of the Moon.
Experts think that this side of the Moon that does not face the Earth is also one of the quietest radio locations in the inner solar system. The radio signals that we keep beaming from Earth mean that one would have to travel as far as Jupiter to find a spot that is as silent as the Moon's far side.
Astronomers like Jack Burns, a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Boulder, Colorado, want to set up an array of radio telescopes in this spot to peer back into time and observe the universe a few million years after the Big Bang.
The entire setup would consist of 128 pairs of dipole antennas placed across a 6.2-mile (10 km) diameter on the lunar surface by four rovers. Since the universe is expanding, it is stretching the wavelengths of radio signals, thereby reducing their frequency. The signals received by these antennae could be merged electronically to analyze them.
By using receivers in the 21-cm band or 10 - 40 MHz frequency range, astronomers will be able to peek way back in time at the cosmos when it was 15-80 million years old. Back then, there were no stars, and the electrons and protons were still combining to form neutral hydrogen atoms, a principal subject of study for the telescope.
By observing these very components that became the cores of the very first stars, some 100s of larger than our Sun, the astronomers want to understand our origins. The program will also track coronal mass ejections and solar flares from nearby stars and try to spot magnetic fields on the planets in their habitable zones. The presence of a magnetic field is the reason why life exists on Earth but does not on Mars.
Blue Origin's Contribution
Jeff Bezos's space firm has expressed a strong interest in ferrying this telescope to the Moon. Its Blue Moon lander, designed to be flexible to carry payloads large and small to the lunar surface, is ideal for the FARSIDE mission. In a single landing, Blue Moon could put all the components needed to set up FARSIDE. Lunar rovers could then work, roll out the dipole antennae, and connect the array to get it working.
A communications satellite on the far side could relay back to Earth if the sequence of events was going as per plan and the data that the telescopic array would generate.
As of now, the Blue Moon lander is getting its final touches. But the sore point is the funding of the project. Blue Origin wants NASA to foot the entire bill for the mission, but a public-private partnership could also be worked out.
If Bezos ever wanted to show how interested he was in space science, this would be the time.