NASA backs ‘Death Star’ design for crater telescope on the moon

That’s no moon. It’s a … moon with a telescope on it.

NASA has unveiled a plan to build a massive radio telescope on the moon in a project that appears to borrow from the design of the planet-destroying Death Star in Star Wars.

The space agency says it’s developing an idea to build a Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) on the far side of the moon, where it would use a large crater as a natural radio dish to amplify the signal.

“The moon acts as a physical shield that isolates the lunar surface telescope from radio interference/noises from Earth-based sources,” Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, the lead researcher on the proposal, wrote on NASA’s website.


Bandyopadhyay says a telescope on the far side of the moon would have many advantages over those on or in orbit around the Earth, because it would be able to pick up the radio signals that get disrupted by all the noise around our planet. These signals exist in the ultra-long wavelength of the radio spectrum, which humans have largely been unable to tap into when looking at the universe.Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay/NASA
Bandyopadhyay has been awarded a grant to develop the proposal through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which looks for new and novel ideas for exploring space.

According to his plan, NASA would deploy several climbing robots to build the telescope inside a crater between 3 and 5 km wide on the far side of the moon. The telescope itself would be made of a 1 km wide wire mesh with a huge radio telescope in the centre.

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NASA is funding nearly two dozen projects under the three-phase NIAC program this year. The lunar crater project is one of several in the first stage of development, but it appears to have already captured people’s imaginations like no other.

“NASA is building a Death Star,” one person tweeted.

A telescope on the far side of the moon might also help with the search for alien signals, as Wired journalist Daniel Oberhaus pointed out on Twitter Tuesday.


Researchers have been listening for extraterrestrial signals for several years now, but a telescope on the moon would let them hear a broader range of space noise. That means that — hypothetically — they might be able to hear something that’s been getting drowned out by all the noise on Earth.

Obviously, it’s a stretch to expect a signal from aliens.

However, it wouldn’t hurt to have a Death Star on hand for a close encounter, would it?

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