You might remember the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, you know, the big dish in a natural bowl, that suffered mysterious damage and an equally mysterious demise. It might not shock you to learn that scientists are thinking about building one on the far side of the Moon, using robots and a large crater for the purpose:
Here's the basic plan:
In late 2020, the beloved Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico collapsed and was decommissioned. It was a dish-type radio telescope, built into a natural depression in the landscape. Now, as the astronomy community mourns Arecibo’s loss, a team of scientists has just cleared another hurdle to building a much-larger radio telescope. In April 2021, NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts awarded the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope project $500,000 for further research and development. This telescope, too, is to be built into a natural depression in the landscape, in this case a bowl-shaped crater on the far side of the moon.
Where and how would a telescope be built in such a remote and inaccessible place? After all, so far, only one spacecraft has successfully soft-landed on the moon’s far side, and that is China’s Chang’e 4, which achieved humanity’s first soft landing on the far side on January 3, 2019. To scientists, Chang’e 4’s success only shows it can be done, and the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope team has an innovative plan. Their idea is to deploy space robots to build the half-mile-wide (1-km-wide) radio telescope in one of several proposed craters on the far side of the moon. The telescope itself is to consist of a wire mesh.
DuAxel is a robotic concept under development that would consist of two tethered rovers. One rover would stay on the edge of the crater and act as an anchor, while the second rover would travel down the crater’s wall into the bowl to build the telescope. A separate spacecraft would deliver a wire mesh dish to the center of the crater that the robots would unfold and drag up the walls of the crater to anchor on the rim.
OK, so far, so good. But why build an Arecibo-like radio telescope on the far side of the Moon? Here's where it gets interesting:
A radio telescope on the moon’s far side would have many advantages over a similar instrument built on Earth. While large radio telescopes do exist on Earth (the biggest one, currently, is FAST in China), our ionosphere blocks Earth-bound radio telescopes from seeing wavelengths longer than 33 feet (10 meters). The moon’s lack of an atmosphere will allow the longer radio wavelengths to reach a telescope built on the moon. And the far side of the moon is an excellent site for a radio telescope. That’s because the moon itself will block the radio chatter emitted from Earth. These advantages will open up a range of wavelengths that astronomers have not been able to explore.
Again, OK, so far so good. It's another one of those tax-payer-funded science-fair projects that will allow scientists to probe their theories even further. But I cannot imagine NASA, which is so closely tied to the American defense industry and military, being all about "pure science." Indeed, such a radio telescope could perhaps have some military purpose. This is where it gets interesting:
Lunar Crater Radio Telescope team member Joseph Lazio of JPL said:
While there were no stars, there was ample hydrogen during the universe’s Dark Ages, hydrogen that would eventually serve as the raw material for the first stars. With a sufficiently large radio telescope off Earth, we could track the processes that would lead to the formation of the first stars, maybe even find clues to the nature of dark matter. (Boldface emphasis added)
This is an admission I find extraordinarily interesting, for some scientists have proposed that "dark matter" may be the key to fantastic new energy technologies, to anti-gravity, to NASA's warp drive project, and yes, to a whole new category of weapons. And of course, if "anyone" is "out there", it might be able to pick up signals, and send them.
Of course, there's a few flies in the ointment, not the least of which is that NASA hasn't (so far as we know) been back to the Moon in any major way since the Clementine mission of the 1990s, and China, as the article points out, is the only nation to have successfully landed a probe on the far side, no mean feat of engineering.
But there's another potential fly in the ointment. At the 2015 Secret Space Program conference in Bastrop, Texas, I outlined a theory, based on a very ancient idea, that the orbit of the Moon could be taken as a kind of "quarantine zone" or "demilitarized zone" around the Earth. The idea has been picked up, in one form or another, by various people, including C.S. Lewis in the first of his "space trilogy" books, Out of the Silent Planet. In my version, I tie the idea of a quarantine or demilitarized zone to that of an ancient interplanetary war, with the "victors" imposing certain sanctions on the vanquished, including a "demilitarized zone", much like the Allied Powers did on Germany after World War One, turning the Rhineland into such a zone. I even suggested the idea that one reason that we put little plaques on early space probes to the effect that "we're coming in peace" might not have been just a "good idea" in case our probes encountered "whomever," but also because at a more deep and hidden level, someone within the early space age knew of those ancient traditions, and was worried how human ventures beyond that zone might be interpreted, if "whomever" imposed them was still "out there."
Which puts a quest for constructing a radio telescope on the Moon's far side into a very different light, for construction of such a device, especially for the purpose of teasing out the secrets of "dark matter" (if there is such a thing), and all its possible applications, could very likely be construed as a violation of that quarantine zone. And extending our process of reasoning just a bit farther: if such considerations are known at some deep level, and they're willing to go ahead anyway, that might indicate that the Deep State "they" are relatively confident that humanity has reached a level of technology and/or "diplomacy" that it can handle the "whomever 'them'".
See you on the flip side...