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Astronomers race to moon from mission control Sydney

Last Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 16:02

Melbourne: Robert Brand, who spent his summer holidays wiring video and audio connections for NASA to relay Apollo 11’s images from the moon to the world at 17, hopes to communicate with another craft destined for the lunar surface as part of an international race to land a robot on the moon by the end of 2015 more than 40 years later.

The Google Lunar X Prize will award 20 million dollars to the first privately funded team to successfully land an unmanned craft on the moon.

The craft must travel 500 metres and send data and images back to Earth to claim the prize.

Brand’s Team Stellar, which comprises international space experts, including scientists who worked on Felix Baumgartner’s freefall from the edge of space, plans to build a mission control centre in Sydney and Croatia.

“Australia is so ideal to be part of the whole process, we have the infrastructure and expertise,” the Age quoted Brand as saying.

Team Stellar plans to buy a spacecraft of similar size and shape to the 21-metre SpaceX rocket that supplied cargo to the International Space Station earlier this year.

It will house a rocket-powered lander and a combined battery/solar-powered rover to explore the surface, both of which team members plan to build themselves.

As the lander will detach from the rocket upon re-entry, it will need to withstand the sun’s solar radiation as well as the heat that rises from the surface of the moon.

To communicate with the craft, the team will set up a deep space communications network comprising three 30-metre antennae at different locations around the world. One antenna will be bought and erected in central New South Wales.

If the lunar landing is successful, the Curiosity-sized rover will capture high-quality video and audio, which the lander will beam to Earth via radio waves.

The team plans to conduct trial experiments from Australia and other countries before the final launch in mid-2014 in the country where they purchase the rocket.


First Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 16:01
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