The world's first mission to the South Pole of the Moon to install a permanent telescope on the lunar surface, to aid professional and amateur researchers, has been announced.
The private enterprise mission, announced by the International Lunar Observatory Association and Moon Express, will be both scientific and commercial, and plans to deliver the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) aboard a Moon Express robotic lander.
Moon Express will also utilise the mission to explore the Moon's South Pole for mineral resources and water. Lunar probes have provided compelling evidence of mineral and volatile deposits in the Moon's southern polar region where energy and resources may be abundant, Phys.org reported.
The ILO, with its 2-meter dish antenna, will be the world's first instrument to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface, providing scientific research, commercial broadcasting and enabling Galaxy 21st Century education and "citizen science" on the Moon.
The announcement was made during a NASA Lunar Science Institute conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
"The ILO will demonstrate the value of the Moon for scientific study of the Galaxy, Moon, Earth, Sun and Stars," said Steve Durst, founder and director of the ILOA and Space Age Publishing Company.
"We are a global consortium of scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and visionaries who seek to establish a scientific presence on the Moon followed by human exploration and eventual settlement." Space Age Publishing Company, ILOA's commercial affiliate, intends to broadcast its Space Calendar weekly and Lunar Enterprise Daily via the ILO. ILOA expects that the South Pole mission could take place as early as 2016 and contribute to humanity's growth as a multi-world species.
Moon Express will send a series of robotic missions to the Moon in support of science, commerce and exploration starting in 2015.
"We are very excited to our announce that our second Moon mission will be to the lunar South Pole to deliver the International Lunar Observatory and to prospect for resources," said Moon Express CEO Dr Robert Richards.
"The mission will provide a historic landing in an unexplored region of the Moon that may harbour some of the greatest resource deposits in the solar system," said Richards.
The ILO and its precursor will have an internet-based access and control system and will be the first private space telescope to operate from the lunar surface.