The new race to make the Moon a kind of near-Earth hub of research and commercial activity is heating up once again with the announcement of a plan to send a robotic probe to the Moon's south pole. Led by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express, the project is part of an effort to put a permanent telescope on the surface of the Moon.
As envisioned by the international group working on the project, the ILO will be composed of a transmission dish serving as a multi-wavelength observatory, with the ability to gather solar power to keep it running indefinitely. The group hopes to make the ILO the first device to regularly execute space research and communications from the lunar surface.
The enthusiasm and optimism driving the project is most apparent in the comments from ILOA founder, Steve Durst, who said, "the ILO will demonstrate the value of the Moon for scientific study of the Galaxy, Moon, Earth, Sun and stars. We are a global consortium of scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and visionaries who seek to establish a scientific presence on the Moon followed by human exploration and eventual settlement."
At present, the plan is to launch the mission in 2015, with the south pole leg of the expedition occurring sometime in 2016.