Big Island Group Looks to Put Telescope on the Moon

The company embroiled in the Hawaiian telescope controversy aims higher.

📅   Thu November 19, 2015 - National Edition
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While debate continues to surround whether one of the world's largest telescopes should be built on Mauna Kea, a Big Island organization is working to land a 2-meter telescope on the moon.
While debate continues to surround whether one of the world's largest telescopes should be built on Mauna Kea, a Big Island organization is working to land a 2-meter telescope on the moon.

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - While debate continues to surround whether one of the world’s largest telescopes should be built on Mauna Kea, a Big Island organization is working to land a 2-meter telescope on the moon.

The International Lunar Observatory Association, based in Waimea, is raising money to get the telescope on the moon’s Malapert mountain, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1LjgKpL). Data collected from the 2-meter telescope would be transmitted back to Hawaii for astronomers and students to study.

ILOA said it has invested between $4 million and $5 million over the last decade to get the first semi-permanent observatory on the moon. The project budget totals more than $150 million, but the organization is looking for a joint venture partner to help cover much of the costs.

In the meantime, ILOA founder and director Steve Durst said the organization is collaborating with Google Lunar XPRIZE participant Moon Express on a ”precursor mission.’ The two groups plan to take a 3-inch telescope to the moon in 2017.

Mauna Kea lunar observatories are leading the effort in advancing the study of other galaxies, said Pierre Martin, an assistant astronomy professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, at the ILOA Galaxy Forum Thursday in Waimea.

However, Martin said an observatory as big as the Thirty Meter Telescope, which will sit 180 feet tall on Mauna Kea, is too large to take to the moon.

”You would have to live there for many years’ building it, Martin said. ”But this is the first step.’

Some Hawaiians are strongly opposed to the development on Mauna Kea because they view the land as sacred. Protesters prevented construction crews from accessing the site three times this year.

Hawaiian cultural practitioner Pua Case, one of six appellants challenging TMT International Observatory’s land use permit before the state Supreme Court, called the Thirty Meter Telescope the ”tipping point.’

”It’s not about science versus culture,’ Case said. ”It’s about an 18-story building on our mountain.’