Lunar Inflation: European Scientists Set to Launch Moon-Bound Inflatable Radio Telescope
Lunar Inflation: European Scientists Set to Launch Moon-Bound Inflatable Radio Telescope

USA: An inflatable radio telescope for the Moon is what European scientists want to send there. The idea was developed following a recent feasibility study by the European Space Agency (ESA). The first few hundred million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars and galaxies started to form, are referred to as the universe's "Dark Ages" and can be observed with this telescope.

When the inflatable radio telescope is launched, which could take some time, it will conduct groundbreaking research on the Moon, elevating space exploration to a whole new level.

A few other missions are planned to launch to the Moon in the near future in the interim. China wants to send a telescope to orbit the Moon by 2026, to name a few.

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The plan is to "print" a variety of radio antennas on Kapton, a superlight material, and send them to the Moon. The European Large Logistics Lander would transport this system. The system is collapsed, gas is injected, and it is inflated. According to Radboud University professor Marc Klein Wolt, it's comparable to an air mattress on the moon.

This radio telescope will be constructed on the far side of the Moon, away from any radio signal interference. In actuality, the far side of the Moon is "the most radio-quiet place in the solar system," according to Klein Wolt.

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A telescope positioned in this area would be able to detect signals that are impossible to detect from Earth.


The inflatable telescope can shed light on the Dark Ages of the universe from its cleverly chosen location on the far side of the Moon. The observatory would be searching specifically for a signal known as the 21-centimeter emission line, which is generated by atomic hydrogen. It is thought that during the first period after the Big Bang, these molecules filled the entire universe.

Although the concept of an inflatable radio telescope is intriguing, there are a number of difficulties. First of all, there is currently no technology that can send dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of radio antennas to the Moon. The Large Logistics Lander, which is expected to launch to the Moon for the first time in 2030, could be used to transport the radio antenna array, according to a recent ESA feasibility study.

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According to the study, the Large Logistics Lander is capable of sending 16 radio antennas to the Moon in one launch. That, according to Klein Wolt, would not be able to provide the sensitivity and clarity needed to thoroughly study the Dark Ages. The alternative would be to create an inflatable array that could hold more antennas while being lighter overall.

European scientists are currently developing antenna prototypes that could be tested on the Moon. This would aid scientists in understanding how the antennas are impacted by the lunar environment.

It could be a nearside mission, similar to the Apollo missions, rather than having to be tested  on the far side, according to Klein Wolt. We have a wide range of options to consider.

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