Research to seek dark side of the moon

Since the beginning of the space age, astronomers have dreamed of putting telescopes and other instruments on the far side of the moon. Not only would that avoid all the distortions and disturbances caused by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, but equally important, the moon's mass would block the noisy torrent of radio signals emanating from Earth. Only in the moon's radio "shadow' could the farseeing radio telescopes envisioned for the future pick up the extremely faint signals left over from the early universe, signals that would otherwise be drowned out by the broadcast barrage from Earth. But placing astronomy equipment on the always far side of the moon was well beyond the capabilities of the Apollo programme, and no robotic lunar mission could do it either, which is why the telescopes were never developed. With NASA planning to send astronauts back to the moon sometime after 2019, those dreams of a radio telescope looking out through the galaxies from the protected side of the moon have been revived. The agency recently awarded two planning grants for research on the necessary technologies and on how to put them in place. The $500,000 grants to a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to the Naval Research Laboratory will be used to flesh out ideas for designing folded-up radio antennas that would pop open after being dropped on the lunar surface, for transmitting the flood of data that the antennas could theoretically collect, and for taking advantage of the planned presence of astronauts on the moon.