Courtesy: Jack Burns. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder

The Moon’s farside is an attention grabber…for many reasons.

For good measure, enter the Farside Array for Radio Science Investigations of the Dark ages and Exoplanets, shortened to enlightened shorthand: FARSIDE.

This concept is to place a low radio frequency interferometric array on the farside of the Moon, blueprinted by Jack Burns of the University of Colorado, Boulder and Gregg Hallinan of the California Institute of Technology.

Research tasks

As noted in the NASA proposal, FARSIDE would enable near-continuous monitoring of the nearest stellar systems in the search for the radio signatures of coronal mass ejections and energetic particle events, and would also detect the magnetospheres for the nearest candidate habitable exoplanets.

Simultaneously, FARSIDE would be used to characterize similar activity in our own solar system, from the Sun to the outer planets, including the hypothetical Planet Nine.

As outlined, FARSIDE, among a bevy of duties, would enable an abundance of additional science ranging from sounding of the lunar subsurface to characterization of the interstellar medium in the solar system neighborhood.

Commercial lunar lander

As a new NASA-funded “Probe Study Final Report,” the idea focuses on the instrument, a deployment rover, the lander and base station that consists of 128 dipole antennas deployed across 6 miles (10 kilometers) of the lunar landscape by a rover, and tethered to a base station for central processing, power and data transmission to the proposed NASA Lunar Gateway, or an alternative relay satellite.

Courtesy: Jack Burns, University of Colorado, Boulder

FARSIDE uses the Lunar Gateway, or similar Lunar asset, for communication with Earth.
Credit: Jack Burns, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder

FARSIDE requires transportation to the lunar surface, assumed to be completed through the use of a commercial lunar lander.

According to the study report, the Blue Origins Blue Moon Lander was selected as a reference lander for the design. The total mission cost estimate for FARSIDE, after applying NASA- and JPL standard cost reserves of 30% during development and 15% during operations is roughly $1.3 billion.

A report on the concept notes that: “In the past decade, significant investments have been made by commercial companies to develop the capability to deliver payloads to the surface of the Moon, with some companies now on the horizon of success. NASA shows strong support of these companies through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program (CLPS), which recently awarded the first contract to three companies for payload delivery with a launch target in 2021.”

An artist’s impression of a habitable planet experiencing a coronal mass ejection (CME) from its host star, an active M dwarf. Detecting coronal mass ejections, energetic particle events and the magnetospheres of candidate habitable planets is a key science goal for the FARSIDE array. Credit: Chuck

Sky noise

The lunar FARSIDE initiative benefits from radio frequency interference from Earth, plasma noise from the solar wind, and other interfering issues.

The study report notes that the lunar farside is the only location within the inner solar system from which “sky noise” limited observations can be carried out at frequencies to fulfill the promise of FARSIDE.

This study may be of interest to the lunar science community, notes Burns of the University of Colorado, Boulder, since it describes “how the array of low frequency radio dipole antennas might also be used to probe the subsurface on the lunar farside and as stations for seismic activity.”

Take a look at this unique approach that benefits from using the farside of the Moon, and sent to the NASA-funded Astrophysics Probe study group at:

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