FarView: NASA's megastructure to be built on the far side of the Moon

hidden side

Space exploration is the perfect argument for investing resources and efforts in research and development. NASA has different incentives to fund projects with great potential to be applied to real missions. More specifically its NIAC program, which stands for Innovative Advanced Concepts. In phase two of the 2023 solicitation they accepted six proposals that will receive up to six hundred thousand dollars over two years to demonstrate capabilities to make it happen. One of these is the construction of In-Situ of FarView, a network of lunar radio telescopes.

polidan 2023 ph ii graphic
Digital recreation of the FarView antenna network expected to be built on the far side of the Moon. Credits: Ronald Polidan

Hidden side of the Moon

On Earth we have several problems when we want to observe the sky. The first is our atmosphere, which limits some wavelengths and greatly distorts others. In the case of radio waves there is a great deal of contamination when it comes to research, since they are also used as a method of communication and are generated from various sources.

Meanwhile, the Moon offers the possibility of serving as a shield against all electromagnetic spectrum pollution from Earth. Thanks to the tidal coupling of the satellite a 40 % of the surface never has line of sight with the planet. It would be used as a barrier, so the radio telescopes can observe quietly into the sky and provide cleaner data.

FarView region
The shaded area shows the likely areas where FarView could be built. It was chosen for its richness in needed metals.

FarView

The so-called FarView is a network of radio telescopes operating at frequencies between 5 and 4 megahertz.. It would comprise more than 100,000 antennas spread over an area of approximately 200 square kilometers.. Since we do not have the capability to launch so much cargo to the Moon, all the instruments would be built using the resources that can be extracted from the regolith. The poorly named lunar soil is rich in oxygen and metals. These would be extracted through mining and processed to manufacture antennas, solar cells, cables and other necessary equipment.  

In addition to developing the mechanisms to take advantage of the regolith, it is necessary to perform orbital analyses of the hidden side to find the right location to optimize the process.. We are looking for a place where there is an abundance of the materials used for the antennas and a flat terrain that facilitates the installation of the equipment. One proposal is the region between latitudes 20 and 60 south and longitudes 120 and 220 east.

In the second phase the team hopes to advance the concept. As well as finding solutions to the major challenges facing the project. As a first step, it is expected, based on the awarded funding, to demonstrate capabilities to fabricate thick aluminum films in a vacuum chamber with lunar regolith simulators.. Also a preliminary design of the rovers needed to maintain the production line and installation.

Given the complexity and scale of FarView, there is a good chance that it will not become a reality for several decades. However, all the development and research being done can be used to solve other challenges on the Moon. As well as being applied to problems on Earth and helping to improve our daily lives.

Francisco Andrés Forero Daza