Next-generation lunar astrophysics mission by sophia C.


LUNAR - It is Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research where they would research, program and dig in the astrophysics from the moon. There is a team all over the world that are being a part of this program who will develop new technology to make the research a success.

Astrophysics - It deals physics and chemistry that explains life of the universe, stars, planets and many more. It is the interaction between matter and radiation in the interior of natural bodies that are in space.

Supernova - An explosion of a star.

Gamma Ray - A photon emitted by an electron. It is very dangerous for humans.

Satellite - It is an artificial body placed in orbit around the moon or Earth.

NASA - It stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration and they work on technology, science and space.

Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) - A plan for space exploration and a response from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster by President George W. Bush (January 14, 2004).

Planetary protection - It is a guiding principle in the design of a trip in outer space.

How can we use the gamma ray telescope or information?

LUNAR university are focusing on the advancement of technology and taking that information, knowing it will be much help in the future. There are many tasks or goals they can focus on while making the telescope, finding new planets, supernovas and more. In the article by Jim Steele, a research writer in the University of Alabama in Huntsville “NASA reviewing UAH-led proposal for next-generation lunar astrophysics mission” 19 Jan 2017, it talks about that the main goal of the mission are to provide a systematic survey of supernovae, classify them, examine the characteristics of their diversity and then to understand their explosion processes. They are using data from the Apollo that lasted over a lifetime of more than 40 years and it gave most of the best tests of General Relativity. This can also lead to finding life in other planets, improving technology itself and the university will be known for making an advance technology while finding a supernova. (1) With the help from other schools and possibility NASA, they are already looking ahead at the possibilities when this mission will be a success. Even though they are looking at the future, they are looking back at old informations to see what helped on their previous mission. They then begin to look at planetary protection protocols for Mars along with this mission with the moon. The have to follow the protocols to insure safety on the moon and if the satellite is returning from the atmosphere. With this mission, this can lead to other possibilities. They will be doing the same thing now in a way since completing this mission will support their ideas about the things for people and Mars. (5) Of course, having a plan do have many flaws and challenges to overcome.

What are the challenges or concerns they fear in the future with their mission?

There are a few challenges they face but in order to do the whole mission or have any ideas of making any scenarios into reality. Their ideas need to support of the Vision for Space Exploration. These are plans or rules they need to follow because of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in the 2000’s. (5) which was mentioned in a database by Sherwood, Brent, a space architect “What Will We Actually Do On the Moon?”, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster is a space shuttle that was returning from its 28th mission but it broke apart all over Texas. It killed all seven crew members on board and it happened because of a minor problem with the shuttle which was that the foam insulation broke off the propellant tank and damaged the edge part of the shuttle’s left wing. This was the second major tragedy in Space shuttle program’s history and gave a serious look upon the safety in space today, making LUNAR use this mistake to make sure it won’t happen to them. They have ideas for this mission but they cannot actually take the satellite in space without going through the safety and avoiding any major accidents. Safety is one of the major problem but they need money to make the equipment they need to make sure their projects are safe when being released into the atmosphere. So far, another goal to reach the main goal is overcomes technical and cost challenges as well since the program have a maximum price of $250 million. (2) which is mentioned in University of Alabama Huntsville Moon that plays lead role in new astronomical technique. To overcome the money and maybe other challenges in their way, they are hoping that NASA will support them in their mission.

What will NASA do and how are they going to help with this mission?

NASA can provide financial and technically aid that the LUNAR university needs for their mission. If NASA accept the offer then it will be LOX first astrophysics mission to the moon, the operation will be at UAH and the first nuclear gamma-ray astrophysics mission in almost 20 years. (4) The last nuclear gamma ray mission was in 2011 and it included NASA’s Fermi large area telescope. Most of the successful teams that deal with space had help from NASA, giving them former or new equipment and data to help them with their current mission. LUNAR wants the help in order to make the whole mission as success. Not only they give former data and equipment, they give money to the team’s proposal. The mission will cost $239 million. The cost will cover the design and construction of the satellite itself and the instruments as well that it would cover the mission operating cost for at least of three years. (7) The LUNAR university is hoping that NASA will accept their proposal and provide them the money they need to make it work. They have many projects about space but they are putting more attention on this mission. Their focus is the moon. However, this isn’t the the first mission with the moon.

How long has the LUNAR university done missions with the moon?

They did missions with the moon for more than eight years but only the last four has been recorded. In the video “Jack Burns, Director of the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research” on Youtube about LUNAR’s previous mission, the university been doing many missions with the moon before 2016. They have a team of students and researchers with different level of experiences. They work on new technology that deals with the exploration of space and science. It takes a lot of time and research for their missions in space. According to LUNAR UNIVERSITY NETWORK for ASTROPHYSICS RESEARCH website, The first mission that was recorded was the “Back to the moon” mission in May 24, 2009 which was about 4 years ago. (8) This mission was focused on how the moon affect Earth itself and the other connections that the two have together. Now, they are continuing to do missions with the moon which is sending a gamma ray telescope in the moon’s orbit. This isn’t the only mission they did, there is many other missions they tested throughout the years.

How did LUNAR previous mission influence LUNAR now?

They did many missions like taking the rover to the moon, testing telescopes and even help other universities with their missions. One of the missions they helped on was the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory that began at 1991 and ended at 2000 which was last major NASA mission to investigate this regime. (3) The team in LUNAR would help with the research before the mission or preparing before the mission starts and when they observe the gamma rays in space. They are not doing this now but, the support from other universities are in this position now, helping LUNAR with their mission. Not only LUNAR helped with big and successful missions, they did missions on their own. One of their previous mission was finding an estimated there were about 100 liters of water in the crater on the moon in 2009. (8) They did missions like putting rovers on the moon, finding water in craters, looking back on the Apollo mission and advancing it and much more.

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