Robots to install telescopes to peer into cosmos from moon
GN WASHINGTON – As the United States races to put humans back on the moon for the first time in 50 years, a NASA-funded lab in Colorado aims to send robots there to deploy telescopes that will look far into our galaxy, remotely operated by orbiting astronauts.
The radio telescopes, to be planted on the far side of the moon, are among a plethora of projects underway by the US space agency, private companies and other nations that will transform the moonscape in the coming decade.
“This is not your grandfather’s Apollo program that we’re looking at,” said Jack Burns, director of the Network for Exploration and Space Science at the University of Colorado, which is working on the telescope project.
“This is really a very different kind of program and very importantly it’s going to involve machines and humans working together,” Burns said in an interview at his lab on the Boulder campus.
Sometime in the coming decade, Burns’ team will send a rover aboard a lunar lander spacecraft to the far side of the moon. The rover will rumble across the craggy and rough surface – featuring a mountain taller than any on earth – to set up a network of radio telescopes with little help from humans.
Astronauts will be able to control the rover’s single robotic arm from an orbital lunar outpost called Gateway, which an international consortium of space agencies is building. The platform will provide access to and from the moon’s surface and serve as a refueling station for deep space missions.
The goal is to give astronauts control of the rover “in a quicker fashion and more like doing some sort of video game,” said Ben Mellinkoff, a graduate student at the university.