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New Method Discovered For Making Telescopes On the Moon

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the i'm-sure-macgyver-has-some-ideas-too dept.

NASA 135

NASA scientists have discovered a way to craft very large mirrors using carbon nanotubes, some epoxy, a little bit of aluminum, and large quantities of lunar dust. They say the technique will allow the construction of massive telescopes on the moon without the expense and risk of transporting the mirrors from Earth. Douglas Rabin of the Goddard Space Flight Center is quoted saying, "Our method could be scaled-up on the moon, using the ubiquitous lunar dust, to create giant telescope mirrors up to 50 meters in diameter." While this breakthrough was relatively cheap, NASA is currently offering up to $10 million for other good lunar research projects.

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dustbuster (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694265)

so .. after the mirrors are finished. how do they propose to keep the mirrors dustfree ?

Re:dustbuster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694357)

No wind on the Moon, hence...

Re:dustbuster (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694913)

Meteorites, micro- and otherwise. They will kick up dust, and if the mirrors have any electric charge, the dust may be attracted as well.

First time using extraterrestrial materials? (2, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694441)

So would this be the first time in history that humanity would be using materials from off the earth to construct something?

Re:First time using extraterrestrial materials? (4, Informative)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694745)

Not really. []

Re:First time using extraterrestrial materials? (4, Interesting)

jascha.cohen (1130859) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695013)

More accurately, it would appear to be the first time that we (humans) have manufactured something off-planet with native resources. As noted, we've used extra-terrestrial materials before in the form of meteor/asteroid material. It *is* pretty exciting, if just for the proof-of-concept that we can "live off the land" (so to speak) off-world.

Re:lasers and mirror wipers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694487)

Lunar mirror wipers, of course, and lasers to deflect any incoming space rocks.

Re:Dr Evil (2, Funny)

xeoron (639412) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694519)

Hire Dr. Evil to adapt his pet sharks with "Lasers" to be more like fish tank sucker fish that can co-exist in the Lunar habitat and enjoy new extreme environments for them to play, work, and live it, or perhaps have him create some kind of robo-sucker-wiper-kill-bot.

Slow process (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694273)

But it takes forever to count out 12 quatrillion nanotubes for the recipe.

Re:Slow process (5, Funny)

J'ai Friedpork (1293672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694415)

It takes forever to count out 6857 grains of salt as well. I suspect they'll just write down "one cup of nanotubes" and be done with it.

Re:Slow process (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694553)

A metric cup or an imperial cup?

Re:Slow process (3, Funny)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694751)

they'll prolly mix it up and end up exploding.

Re:Slow process (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694765)

A metric cup or an imperial cup?

I use a tea cup.

Re:Slow process (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695477)

African or European tea?

Re:Slow process (1)

FernandoBR (1011821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695645)

I prefer chinese green tea.

Re:Slow process (1)

J'ai Friedpork (1293672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696403)

Perhaps two cups of tea would suspend the nanotubes between them...

Re:Slow process (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697303)

I don't know, WAAAARGGH!

Re:Slow process (1)

Mat'nik (1291540) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696267)

I use a tea cup.
An imperial cup then.

Re:Slow process (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696063)

A metric cup or an imperial cup?

FYI, there is no metric cup.

Re:Slow process (1)

ATMD (986401) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697415)

So you mean there's only one cup?

That's a dangerous state of affairs. Although the chance of two girls being on Slashdot simultaneously is ludicrously low, so we should be safe.

Re:Slow process (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695903)

Did you mean one cup or 225 grams?

And didn't we have this argument once already...on the way to Mars?

Practical applications (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694279)

This should prove a useful means of allowing whalers on the moon to see their prey, which are mostly stuck on Earth.

Re:Practical applications (4, Funny)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694479)

We're whalers on the moon
We carry a harpoon
But their ain't no whales so we tell tall tales
And sing this whaling tune


Re:Practical applications (0, Offtopic)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694557)

Yes... whalers are all good and well, but what about the Moon Pirates? How will they repel Moon Ninjas if whalers have their telescopes?

Al Gore already invented this (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694925)

...shortly after he rode the mighty moon worm.

MacGyver-scope (3, Funny)

thesandbender (911391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694281)

using carbon nanotubes, some epoxy, a little bit of aluminum, and large quantities of lunar dust Is there anything he can't do?

He still needs paperclips (2, Funny)

Solr_Flare (844465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694333)

They'll still need to shuttle boxes of paper clips and rubber bands to the moon so they can make most of the items they need. Thankfully, both are relatively light weight, durable, and don't take up much space.

Re:He still needs paperclips (1)

Silver Gryphon (928672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696159)

Nah, Chuck Norris will just slingshot the supplies to the right spot.

looking billions of miles away while ignoring..... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694303)

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& pretending that it isn't happening here;
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

Aluminum? (2, Funny)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694307)

From the article:

"After that, all we needed to do was coat the mirror blank with a small amount of aluminum, and voilÃ, we had a highly reflective telescope mirror," says Rabin.

.....I DO hope that they'll use their tinfoil hat instead of mine!!!!!!

Re:Aluminum? (4, Funny)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694729)

Aluminum is a form of Aluminium found only in North America.

Re:Aluminum? (2, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694769)

you cant give him shit for quoting the article....

Re:Aluminum? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695109)

Check the history on that. Some crazy thought that aluminium sounded better, so the guy who first refined it didn't get to name it.

Re:Aluminum? (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697151)

Canadians say "Aluminum" instead of "Aluminium"? And maybe you should have thought of that before surrendering at Yorktown. Also, according to [] the majority of native English speakers are American.

Forget your stupid observatory! (4, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694321)

Forget your stupid observatory! I'm gonna make my own! With hookers! And blackjack! In fact, forget the observatory!

Oh great More Outsourcing (4, Funny)

monopole (44023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694371)

Taking away good American mirror grinding jobs and sending them to the moon (probably to be made by illegal aliens) while depriving FedEx of the shipping revenue!
Somebody contact Lou Dobbs!

Re:Oh great More Outsourcing (5, Funny)

J'ai Friedpork (1293672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694401)

If Americans were willing to grind mirrors for fifty cents an hour in hard vacuum, we wouldn't need to use lunar immigrants for the jobs.

Re:Oh great More Outsourcing (1)

slimey_limey (655670) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696673)

But, you see, they already live on the moon so they're not actually immigrants.

Re:Oh great More Outsourcing (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697681)

He meant to say illegal lunar immigrants, those who sneak across to the Moon without following the proper procedure. And NASA really doesn't like those who don't follow the part of the procedure which involves a rocket.

Re:Oh great More Outsourcing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694511)

Gee... I wonder how many blacks were involved in this? We all know the answer: none.
No Haitians. No Ethiopians. No Somalians.
But remember: "Diversity is our strength", right?

War is peace. etc.etc.etc.

America is going to hell in a handcart. Once the Jews get Nobama into office, it will be open season on 'whitey', (as if it isn't already).


The reason they can't transport mirrors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694375)

The reason they can't just transport mirrors, of course, is that they're worried about seven years of bad luck.

I, for one... (5, Funny)

J'ai Friedpork (1293672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694377)

...cannot wait to see some mad scientist use this technology to turn the moon into one giant magnifying mirror and having a nice game of "ants on the sidewalk." (And of course, the obligatory welcome to our new super-reflective overlords. Sigh.)

Re:I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23695761)

vous n'avez pas aucun friedpork >=(


Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696097)

Or they might just chrome the moon: []


J'ai Friedpork (1293672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696363)

"Puff Doggy Bling, your latest album, Yet Another CD, has just gone platinum. What are you going to do now?"

"I'ma chrome the mo'fuggin moon."


Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696505)

Congratulations you've just figured out how to get massive amounts of funding for space exploration, get rappers interested in it. You should work at NASA.

What's the old method ... (4, Funny)

jamesl (106902) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694399)

... for making telescopes on the moon?

Re:What's the old method ... (1)

J'ai Friedpork (1293672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694443)

Fly heavy, delicate mirrors up in space shuttles, try to assemble on-site, make one extra round trip when it becomes apparent that someone forgot to pack instructions, finish assembly, discover several extra pieces, spend the next decade trying to figure out where they were supposed to go.

Re:What's the old method ... (2, Funny)

Plaid Phantom (818438) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694929)

So, Ikea has an astronomy equipment division?

Ikea (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695091)

So, Ikea has an astronomy equipment division?

Yes, their biggest seller is called Skope, but you can also get the Refraktor or Kassegrain.

Re:What's the old method ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23695471)

last obligatory quote:
"Those swede's sure so know how to put in almost everything you need."

Re:What's the old method ... (4, Interesting)

f()rK()_Bomb (612162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695209)

the old method was liquid mirrors []

Re:What's the old method ... (1)

bornwaysouth (1138751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697339)

The article you quote has an interesting photo - 4 people beside a large pool of toxic mercury. No wonder that line of research keeps getting snuffed out.

So why can't you just use a thin foil mirror to melt the lunar sand, and spin it into a high quality mirror?

Re:What's the old method ... (1)

laddiebuck (868690) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697243)

A matter of a missing comma. Imagine "New Method Discovered, For Making Telescopes On the Moon". A new method has been discovered, which allows for making telescopes on the moon.

Re:What's the old method ... (1)

Hasmanean (814562) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697489)

Nuclear blast calculated to produce a parabolic crater, with lunar glass on the surface.

Ingenious (4, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694403)

using carbon nanotubes, some epoxy, a little bit of aluminum, and large quantities of lunar dust.

Heck, the first thing that came to my mind was "When did NASA hire MacGyver?" :-) Anyway, the process sounds quite reasonable. And Moon would make a wonderful observatory. I have been dreaming about lunar observatories since I was a kid quarter a century ago (at that time, I stumbled upon books written by a well-known local popular science writer).

No atmosphere, sixth the gravity, little need for compensating the structure deformations? Sounds good. The question is how heavy the manufacturing equipment would be. And there might more problems at least with optical telescopers - I recently stumbled upon a nice article [] on this topic.

Re:Ingenious..But (2, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694641)

The problem that I see is that they will first have to build the fabrication facility and if they are going to spin a 50m morror that is going to be one large building.

Re:Ingenious..But (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695619)

Why do you need a building? What "elements" are you protecting the fabrication facility from?

Re:Ingenious..But (4, Insightful)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695671)

What "elements" are you protecting the fabrication facility from?
The solid ones that leave craters.

Re:Ingenious..But (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695701)

I was thingking more about maintaing the state of the paste while it is spun and cures so that it does not freeze or boil off depending on the amount on sunlight hiting it.

Re:Ingenious..But (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695753)

Good God. You have like 2 weeks to do the work during the "day". The Epoxy is going to have to survive exposure to those temperatures in vacuum anyway. If the uncured epoxy boils at temperatures seen on the lunar surface, then it's probably not the appropriate choice; and, most epoxies cure faster if heated. If it doesn't set up within two weeks (minus the time to mix and pour) then you're in trouble.

I want a degree in... (4, Interesting)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694465)

How cool would it be to design and build huge projects in 1/6 gravity? There would have to be some incredible designs that would just be too fragile to stand up under Earth atmosphere and gravity, and the range of materials you could use would seem limitless. Maybe a nest of lasers to give a long-term boost to an interstellar probe?

There's got to be huge advantages to building in a lunar environment, with raw materials available right there, and the chance to create living space just by drilling and sealing instead of fabricating from scratch.

Re:I want a degree in... (1)

brunokummel (664267) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696087)

....There's got to be huge advantages to building in a lunar environment, with raw materials available right there, and the chance to create living space just by drilling and sealing instead of fabricating from scratch.

And huge disadvantages as well...think where will NASA hire workers that will agree to comute everyday to the moon to build that thing...and don't even get me started on the food they serve there it tastes like astronaut food... =)

Re:I want a degree in... (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696189)

You should read this paper then about self-replicating moon robots with lasers to make more robots. [] They could make pretty much anything up there, and shoot it to Earth, via giant coilguns.

Overheard on comm channel: (5, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694497)

"They headed towards the dish on that large space station...."

"That's no space station. It's a moon!"

Re:Overheard on comm channel: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23695083)

"They headed towards the dish on that large space station...."

"That's no space station. It's a moon!"

That's no satellite. It's the m... Wait...

Re:Overheard on comm channel: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23696017)

What is that giant disc anyways? Somebody shine a light on it now. Oh god, it's a parabolic mirror... MY RETINAS!

I'm the moon (1)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694513)

When you are the moon, there is a person people say is the sun. I saw the sun once, and he came past me, really fast. And it was an, it was called, the, an eclipse. And he came fast! But as he came past, I, I licked his back.

And he doesn't know I licked his back! All in his yellow suit!

I'm the moon.

Re:I'm the moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23695271)

Nothing like a little trip on a Saturday afternoon.

Would it survive the heat? (1)

ratpick (649064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694597)

Doesn't it get really hot where the sun shines on the moon, because of the lack of atmosphere?

One of those "next" steps seems hard (3, Interesting)

slew (2918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694703)

Sure transporting carbon nano-tubes and some expoxy and aluminum to the moon might not be to bad, but did anyone think of the "next" step?

They next applied additional layers of epoxy and spun the material at room temperature.

Getting a large enough volume at room temperature (assuming you need some air pressure too) on the moon to mix it with epoxy and spin it (also presumably at room temperature) might be pretty hard to do without some bulky equipment. Although vacuum coating the mirror blank might seem easier on the moon, as other commentors noted, how do you keep it dust free?

So to summarize...

1. Bring epoxy, carbon nanotubes, aluminum and big spinner to the moon
2. ???
3. Coat resulting lunar dust blank with aluminum to make a mirror
4. Profit?!? (until it's covered with dust)

Re:One of those "next" steps seems hard (1)

jeepien (848819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695525)

... as other commentors noted, how do you keep it dust free?
Just don't spill any dust on it, and it will stay dust free.
There's no wind on the moon, so dust doesn't blow around. The dust on the ground is no more likely to jump up and land on the mirror than a boulder would be.

Re:One of those "next" steps seems hard (3, Interesting)

Esteanil (710082) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695563)

The footprints the first astronauts left on the moon 39 years ago is still preserved.
The moon lacking an atmosphere, and there as such being no weather, the moon dust is quite stable.
It only shifts when something (like an astronaut's boot or a meteorite) pushes it, so the odds of a mirror staying largely dust-free are pretty good.
As to spinning stuff in room temperature on the moon... That part sounds harder :p

Re:One of those "next" steps seems hard (2, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695697)

Actually, there are static electric potentials set up as the moon passes through Earth's magnetotail and also as the terminator passes over the surface. These are believed to kick dust up -- we have some evidence from equipment left by Apollo astronauts. To be honest, we won't know for certain until we go back and look.

Astronaut 1} "OK, you stand there and tell me what happens."

Astronaut 2} "Ok..."

Astronaut 1 runs away

Astronaut 2} "Hey, where are you going???"


Astronaut 2} "You asshole. That hurt! And now I'm all covered in dust..."

Astronaut 1 is heard laughing.

Re:One of those "next" steps seems hard (2, Insightful)

Ravon Rodriguez (1074038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696073)

It's the meteorites that I'd worry about. The moon, having no atmosphere, gets impacted a lot more than earth.

Re:One of those "next" steps seems hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23696545)

Umm - there are some pretty severe temperature swings on the moon, and that expansion and contraction means that the 'dust' in the footprints is going to move. They've already faded a good bit. Someday the footprints will be undetectable (and that day may be here already).

Re:One of those "next" steps seems hard (1)

piemcfly (1232770) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696485)

A lunar vacuum cleaner perhaps?

Newsflash: Scientists find new way to get funding (1, Troll)

16384 (21672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694757)

Using a ingenious new method of buzzword combination, scientists found a way to get funding to do what they want to do, selling it as method to do whatever the funding agency wants, wherever they need it. A new, more ambitious project, will employ nanotubes enhanced with teraherts waves, as a bio-reactor to create biodiesel, clean coal, and solve global warming, creating just the right amount of tritium needed to feed their fusion generator.

Re:Newsflash: Scientists find new way to get fundi (1)

Hasmanean (814562) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697505)

That's true. Nanotubes mixed with dust is nothing special. ANY fibrous material mixed in with a binder will produce a composite structure with great strength.

tubes and lunar dust is not much different from mud and straw.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694795)

...scientists are researching applications of Carbon Nanotubes in curing cancer, bringing about World Peace, discovering the Meaning of Life, superluminal travel, and journeying to the center of the Earth.

Lunar mirror fab means big manufacturing changes (3, Interesting)

skoda (211470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694869)

Astronomical telescope mirror manufacturing is a labor intensive, hands-on, non-automated process. And the culture of aerospace is highly risk averse: this comes from the very customers, like the good people at NASA Goddard.

Lunar telescope manufacturing would require some exciting scientific, engineer, and processing improvements that would also pay off for terrestrial manufacturing.

First, assuming they're not planning to house and employ a standard aerospace company, with 1000 engineers, technicians, and managers on the moon, this would be fully automated. Mirror making is anything but automated. The development of highly automated methods for processing and testing mirrors would be quite a move forward. It would also have direct benefits for conventional manufacturing.

Second, making a mirror on the moon would seem to require a tolerance of risk currently not accepted. Every time a mirror is moved, a crew of people must oversee the affair, sign the (physical) paperwork, and manually inspect the mirror afterwards. For lunar construction, this would have to become an assembly line that ran without that direct oversight, paperwork, or crews. Enabling more efficient methods would certainly benefit normal processes as well.

Moreover, the task of creating such a facility would keep many, many aerospace workers employed for years :)

Re:Lunar mirror fab means big manufacturing change (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695919)

A quibble here. Why is an "aerospace" company making telescopes on the Moon? Shouldn't it be say an "optics" company?

Re:Lunar mirror fab means big manufacturing change (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23696035)

Sorry for posting as AC, I've been a lurker on these boards for too long. []

Anyways, a professor in my physics departement, Ermanno Borra, has been working on a very similar concept for about 20 years. And honestly, it has become pretty much a running joke, seeing how much money he's getting from the government, although he has very few results to show.

He works on liquid mirrors. It uses a liquid that is preferably ferromagnetic and covered with a thin film of silver nanoparticles, so that you can put an array of electromagnets under the spinning mirror to do real-time spatially-continuous adaptive optics. Sounds cool (which it is), but there are a lot of difficulties that come to mind which are presumably common to the project described in TFA.

Firstly, the parabolic shape is always pointing up. Since the mirror is liquid, as soon as you tilt it to the side, it loses its parabolic shape, and becomes useless. Now, the adaptive optics part may help you to try to correct for the distortion, but the best results that Borra managed to get is a correction of a tilting of about a tenth of a minute. Disregard this if the material they use for spinning actually solidifies after a while - you could tilt it afterwards, I guess. Not the liquid one, though Borra has promised a range of 5 to 10 degrees on his device for years.

Even if it becomes hard as concrete, the logistics of tilting a 50-meter wide piece of concrete without any structural deformation is impressive. That means, unless you find a way around this, you'll have to keep your mirror looking up, at all times. So you either place it on the pole, in which case it will be looking at the same place for a very, very long time (until precession slowly moves it around). This is good for doing very deep fields, but hasn't much use otherwise since if there's nothing interesting to look at there, you're stuck there anyways.
Or you can place it anywhere else than the pole, but then you're never gonna look at a given object for more than a couple seconds.

What happens when they run out of lunar dust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23694871)

Like oil, it's a finite resource and shouldn't be wasted on trivialities like telescopes.

Someday... (2, Funny)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23694979)

Humans will be living on the moon and this means they'll probably be living in glass houses.

Perfect for boss (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23695003)

Perfect for my boss who can't seem to have enough of his own mug.

How much epoxy? and other problems (1)

drwho (4190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695303)

While this sounds like a great idea, I want more information before I accept their "Eureka!". How much weight is actually saved? What percentage of this 'lunar concrete' will be lunar dust, and how much of it will be materials brought up from space?

How is it going to be aluminum plated? To use the minimal amount of aluminum here on earth, we would use electroplating - which requires that the entire dish be put in an electroplating tank - and that's going to be one big tank! I am not so sure that you can get the smooth finish needed with any sort of 'paint'. But maybe there's something I'm missing, and that a telescope of that size need not be built to the same stringent tolerances as the Hubble.

Next, it seems as though this is being built without any way to 'aim' it. This limits its utility, as we can only look at what the moon is pointing the dish at. Yes, sure, we can built several, that's nice. But what about when the telescope is brought into focus of an intensely bright object, such as the sun? I guess whatever is at the focus of the dish will have to be moved in order to not be 'fried'.

Any what about lunar dust and micro (or macro) meteorites?

Perhaps I ought to see how earth observatories like araciebo work.

While have a tool like this will do wonders for space exploration, and eventual colonization, It's only the first step of the observing network we need, which will be tens or even hundreds of telescopes all over the solar system, which can work in concern to achieve very high resolution and accuracy. This is the kind of data we will need to plan missions, to either find intelligent life (which is doubtful) or to colonize other star systems (which is far more probable).

Re:How much epoxy? and other problems (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697671)

Astronomical mirrors are plated by evaporating aluminum in a vacuum. Material requirements are very small.

Once the epoxy has hardened, it can be moved. The mirror can be put in an aimable mount like any other telescope mirror.

My concern is whether this technique actually produces high quality mirrors. Will they be smooth enough and properly shaped? Epoxies do not generally keep a constant volume as they cure, and this will tend to distort the mirror. The forces shaping the mirror (gravity and centrifugal) will be 1/6 as strong as on earth, thus any systematic errors will tend to be 6X larger than on earth.

Pseudo-nanotechnology (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695313)

The pseudo-nanotechnology people are a pain. Especially when they work for NASA. They make some minor improvement in materials science, then call a press conference to announce giant telescopes on the moon.

Let's see those guys produce one good-sized mirror without polishing before turning on the NASA PR machine.

Discovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23695395)

Where was this method hiding when they "discovered" it?

Transparent aluminium? (1)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695533)

It would be nice if they could create inexpensive shatter-proof windows here on Earth using this technology....and the fact that it contains aluminium means that perhaps the windows could be used to generate solar power...

Re:Transparent aluminium? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697317)

Unless you can see through an opaque substance, you're kind of out of luck. They're manufacturing a type of concrete, which is used as a backing for that thin layer of aluminum. The aluminum does all the reflecting and carries the entire load of useful optical phenomena. Glass is used for mirrors not because of it's transparency, but because of the mechanical and manufacturing properties of melted silica sand. Light doesn't go through an optical mirror, it bounces right off.

So although you could make a house out of the stuff, you couldn't make windows.

Is this really a BEST method? (2, Insightful)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695557)

If we're thinking about people stationed on the moon, living in habitats big enough to not go nuts in, with either on site energy generation, oxygen production and food supplies, or all of these things shipped in, then I don't see how making and transporting large mirrors in parts and assembling them on the moon is such a complex task. Especially when contrasted against making the thing in situ, in an environment we aren't familiar with, is very deadly and experimental. Think about the factory that would have to be assembled, that could spin a liquid mirror in the vacuum and dust environment of the moon. In many ways, it seems MORE complex to make it up there. I think it's great that people are thinking up these things, but in this case I don't see it as a resource or an energy saver.

Nitpick (1)

kievit (303920) | more than 6 years ago | (#23695637)

Aren't methods "invented" or "developed", rather than "discovered"?

Space Debris (1)

prod-you (940679) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696377)

And how much will the giant shield (aka atmosphere) cost to protect this mirror from all the meteorites and various junk flying around out there?

Re:Space Debris (1)

Hasmanean (814562) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697549)

It doesn't matter. Each impact to the mirror would merely reduce the light collecting ability of the whole by the %age of the area that is occluded. Try putting a spot on a lens, and see the effect it has on the image. There won't be a spot visible, but the whole image will dim a bit.

Assuming the build the mirror in sections of impacts don't crack the entire thing.

As strong as concrete... (3, Interesting)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696401)

Just reading TFA and thinking that, after reading the sentence "When they mixed small amounts of carbon nanotubes and epoxies (glue-like materials) with crushed rock that has the same composition and grain size as lunar dust, they discovered to their surprise that they had created a very strong material with the consistency of concrete.", wouldn't building living (and other) structures on the moon using this material be a better application of this technology?


Vs. Hubble? (2, Interesting)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 6 years ago | (#23696901)

What's the advantage of having a telescope on the moon instead of in space?

add a radio telescope too... (1)

Hasmanean (814562) | more than 6 years ago | (#23697537)

"Two or more such telescopes spanning the surface of the Moon can work together to take direct images of Earth-like planets around nearby stars and look for brightness variations that come from oceans and continents."

Two telescopes plus a very long radio-telescope array would look like this: []
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