Science on the Moon
Section 2.3.
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Farside Radiotelescopes


Fundamentally, cost depends on how much human effort is required to do something.

For construction we do on Earth, we can measure cost in terms of man-hours. For the Artemis Project's cost tables, we use an average burdened labor rate of $75 an hour to convert man-hours to 1995 dollars. (Emphasize burdened labor rate; that includes all the overhead to keep a worker working.)

Determining the cost of things done on the moon is more complex. Resources, especially manpower, will be very scarce for quite a long time. The cost of building a radiotelescope will be measured in terms of the man-hours and other resources diverted from other income-producing projects.

To model the actual cost of a radiotelescope, we'll need a much more detailed defnition of that project. This is a job for technical committee with experts in several disciplines. If there is sufficient interest, we'll open a separate discussion area just for radiotelescopes.

Radiotelescope Construction

A lot of work has been done on the design and construction of lunar radiotelescopes. One good design is based on the telescopes at Arecibo and Vermillion River. The Arecibo telescope uses a maneuverable receiver to determine point of focus over a spherical reflector.

To manufacture such a telescope on the moon we will scoop out a spherical valley and lay down a grid of wires to form the reflector. The wire can be manufactured from lunar material. From Earth we need the equipment to excavate the site, mine the moon, smelt the ore, make the wire, and lay it in the valley. We need all that equipment to build a manned lunar base, so it's a question of priorities for use of the hardware we've already delivered.

We'll probably use aluminum wire -- aluminum is a great conductor of electricity (and hence a great reflector of electromagnetic radiation) and it's plentiful in the lunar regolith.

We use more locally manufactured wire to suspend the receiver above the bowl. We'll have to bring the receiver electronics up from Earth unless we wait until there's an electronics industry on the moon. (We don't.)

An array of these telescopes give us a very large baseline, which means very high resolution for the radio imagery.

Science on the Moon

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