The lunar farside is a whole new, unexplored world in Earth’s backyard! It is dramatically different from regions investigated by Apollo (e.g., 1% maria on farside vs. 31% on nearside), and includes the South Pole-Aitken basin – possibly the largest, deepest, and oldest impact basin in the inner solar system. Furthermore, the farside of the Moon always faces away from Earth and is, therefore, the only pristine radio-quiet site to pursue observations of the early Universe’s Cosmic Dawn.

The farside of the Moon could also provide an opportunity to demonstrate human-robotic exploration strategies needed to explore surfaces of the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. NLSI’s LUNAR team has outlined a mission to teleoperate a Rover on the lunar farside from L2. The mission is much less expensive than Apollo-style missions because no humans need to land on the lunar surface—the rovers are remotely controlled from orbit.

The L2-far side mission uses a rover to deploy a unique polyimide film antenna in the radio-quiet and ionosphere-free zone of the Moon’s farside. A metallic conductor deposited on the surface of Kapton film can be unrolled and used as a low-frequency radio antenna to detect signals from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.

Unmanned Lander and Rover on the lunar farside. Artist’s conception of a roll-out Kapton film antenna on the Moon. Credit: Joe Lazio/JPL

Deployment of Kapton Film Antennas
The Kapton film antennas will be deployed by a remotely operated rover, but exactly how the film “unrolls” is something that is still being investigated by LUNAR researchers. Here two very different approaches that show real promise:

Inflatable deployment test. Credit: Joseph Lazio, JPL/Caltech

Rover antenna deployment test. Credit: Terry Fong, NASA Ames

The Kapton film has been tested in a vacuum chamber, with thermal cycling and UV exposure similar to lunar surface conditions. Further demonstration of telerobotic deployment of the film using the Ames K-10 rover and astronauts aboard International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for the summer 2013.

NLSI recently hosted a podcast with Principal Investigator Jack Burns on exploring the lunar farside.

For more information on the proposed L2 mission, read the Op Ed piece in Space News or the LUNAR team’s white paper on the subject.

Jack Burns is professor and director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute‘s (NLSI) Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: NLSI LUNAR Team

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