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Published March 6, 2021 | public
Book Section - Chapter

Conceptual Design of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) on the Far Side of the Moon


An ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope on the far side of the Moon has significant advantages compared to Earth-based and Earth-orbiting telescopes, including: 1. Enabling observations of the Universe at wavelengths longer than 10 meters (i.e., frequencies below 30 MHz), wavelengths at which critical cosmological or extrasolar planetary signatures are predicted to appear, yet cannot be observed from the ground due to absorption from the Earth's ionosphere; and 2. The Moon acts as a physical shield that isolates a far-side lunar-surface telescope from radio interference from sources on the Earth's surface, the ionosphere, Earth-orbiting satellites, and the Sun's radio emission during the lunar night. In this paper, we present the conceptual design of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) on the far side of the Moon. We propose to deploy a wire mesh using wall-climbing DuAxel robots in a 3–5 km diameter crater, with a suitable depth-to-diameter ratio, to form a parabolic reflector with a 1 km diameter. LCRT will be the largest filled-aperture radio telescope in the Solar System; larger than the former Arecibo telescope (305 m diameter, 3 cm - 1 m wavelength band, 0.3-10 GHz frequency band) and the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) (500 m diameter, 0.1-4.3 m wavelength band, 60–3000 MHz frequency band). LCRT's science objective is to track the evolution of the neutral intergalactic medium before and during the formation of the first stars in the 10–100 m wavelength band (3–30 MHz frequency band), which is consistent with priorities identified in the Astrophysics decadal survey. We describe LCRT's science objectives and the key technology challenges that need to be overcome to make this concept a reality. We envisage that LCRT will open a new window for humanity's exploration of the Universe.

Additional Information

© 2021 IEEE. Pre-Decisional Information – For Planning and Discussion Purposes Only. This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Additional details

August 20, 2023
October 23, 2023