Inside The Insane Plan To Build A 200km2 Telescope On The Moon

Juan Umbarila
This wild concept plan could give us a glimpse of a pre-stellar epoch of the universe.
Moon Close up
Lunar economies of exploration are now becoming a reality. Photo: Nicolas Thomas | Unsplash

A concept radio telescope is being designed to capture signals from the Dark Ages of the universe, a time when stars had not yet formed. The massive structure, called the Farview Observatory, would be built on the far side of the moon, occupying 77 square miles (200 km2) of the lunar surface with 100.000 dipole antennas.

This wild concept is being developed by a company called Lunar Resources, which was recently given a funding award by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program.

Lunar Resources’ Ronald Pulidan explained on NASA’s website that the project has the “potential to deliver a tomographic map tracing the evolution of the universe from before the birth of the stars to the beginning of reionization.”

Additionally, the structure would be built with lunar materials extracted and manufactured in situ, thanks to innovative technologies that are fueling not just scientific observation, but a nascent economy of space resources and exploration.

Why A Telescope On The Moon?

Universe epochs, from pre-stellar to modern galaxies. Photo: JPL | Caltech

A radio telescope of such reach would not be feasible on Earth’s surface, due to our own radio interference and the reflection of stellar radio waves on Earth’s ionosphere.

Radio waves, the lower frequency, lower energy signal of the electromagnetic spectrum, need very fine-tuned ears (and very big ones, for that matter) to be captured. The far side of the moon offers a proper environment to listen to the universe’s formation in its early stages, also blocking Earth’s radio signals in the process.

The Dark Ages, the intended study epoch of the Farview Observatory, is the time after the Big Bang, when the universe was hot, dense, and homogenous; and before the Cosmic Dawn, the period when the first stars came to be. During the Dark Ages, the universe expanded, and its materials cooled and condensed. After about 50 million years, gravity started to form the first luminous objects.

This lunar observatory would be a time machine to better understand the universe’s formation. And furthermore, it would be a practical experiment on lunar material extraction and technological manufacturing. Most of the materials and structure would be mined and built in situ, including the hundreds of thousands of dipole antennas, the solar cells, and the power lines.

A Flourishing Space Economy

Future moon base concept. Photo: European Space Agency | Creative Commons

Beyond scientific research, there is a nascent lunar and space economy that has been developing thanks to a sum of advances in technology, a surge in private investment, and a higher demand for space data and derived products and services, according to Deloitte.

In 2022, the space economy sector was worth $464 billion, according to Euroconsult. That is an 8% growth compared to the previous year. Within a decade, the sector is estimated to grow to $737 billion.

“This is going to be the largest market in human history,” said to TechCrunch Justin Cyrus, Lunar Outpost’s CEO. This other startup has applied technologies developed for space agencies to commercial products here on Earth. An example is an air quality sensor, first developed for a lunar orbit habitat under a NASA contract. Other examples are the rovers for lunar and Martian explorations.

Technological breakthroughs, like extracting oxygen from lunar regolith (moon soil) are making resource extraction and infrastructure manufacturing in space more viable, which can catapult cosmos scientific discovery, as well as commercial and energetic ventures. In turn, these factors combined have the potential to further our exploration of the universe.

Interested in more? Read about the Warning Issued on Children Being Conceived in Space Amid Space Tourism.


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