The science questions that the LUNAR team hopes to answer will revolutionize our understanding of the Universe's history. So far, the answers mostly lie within the land of theoretical modeling, and only minimal ground based observations have begun collecting data to constrain these models. The LUNAR team hopes to proceed with this research similar to how the Cosmic Microwave Background was probed; first with limited resolution, ground based ovservatories, then with progressively complex satellies with improved resolution and capabilities. Similarly, the LOFAR, EDGES, and PAPER antennae arrays are currently making ground based observations of the 21 cm radiation signal. The LUNAR team has proposed a simple, low cost satellite called the Dark Ages Radio Explorer (DARE) to orbit the moon and collect the first spaced-based observations of the distant hydrogen emission from the early universe. The LUANR team hopes to eventually follow up and improve on this observation with a lunar surface based telescope. Burns presented the mission concept at the NASA Lunar Science Institute Directors Colloquium, and gave a great expanation of the sceintific motivations for the mission and an overview of the spacecraft design.
2011, Burns, Norris
Jack Burns, along with Scott Norris, published an article in The Space Review titled "Science and Human Exploration Together at Last." This article first explains the division between human and robotic exploration, especially with regards to Martian rovers and Apollo astronauts. The hope is that in the near(ish) future, when humans return to the Moon and begin to explore further celestial objects such as asteroids or Mars, humans and rovers could work in tandem to return new scientific results. You can view the article by following this link:
Jack Burns was interviewed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) as one of their episodes for their 'Astonomy Behond the Headlines' series. This interview focused on why human astronauts should return to the moon to further our understanding of our closest astronomical neighbor. It also gives an overview of the LUNAR project mission. You can download the original podcast by following this link:
Shortly after the retirement of the Space Shuttle, many Americans were under the impression that NASA had ceased to exist. While this is most certainly not the case, the retirement of NASA's biggest and most media prominent spaceship caused a major shift in focus for American space exploration. Ron Zappolo of Fox 31 News interviewed three of Colorados leading scientists and engineers about this change, and what it means for the future of NASA. You can watch the thought provocing interview below.
The LUNAR team is one of the seven NASA Lunar Scince Institute (NLSI) key projects. The NLSI held its second annual Lunar Science Forum in July of 2011. During that conference Doug Currie gave a presentation about his design for an updated instrument to continue and improve upon the legacy of the Apollo lunar laser ranging reflectors (of which Currie was an original researcher!) Currie describes how the new reflectors will improve the accuracy of the data collected by this type of research and how it will improve the understanding of its science objectives. Also, it describes a new deployment system for these reflectors that will further improve the accuracy of the new reflectors over the Apollo-era ones. View a video of his presentation as well as his slides over Adobe connect (you may need to install a new plug-in on your computer):
As mentioned above, the DARE mission concept is a groundbreaking observational satellite that will make the first observations of the Dark Ages of the universe. The spacecraft will orbit the moon, and make observations when it is travelling over the radio-quiet lunar farside. An overview of the DARE mission was given by Jack Burns at the 2011 NLSI Annual Lunar Science Forum. Burns gives a general overview of both the spacecraft design and the scientific mtivations for the mission in this talk. You can view his lecture by following this link:
At the same confernce, Steven Furlanetto gave a complementary presentation detailing the theoretical models of the Dark Ages and our current level of understanding of that epoch. Furlanetto is a leader in this research. This is another great overview of the history of our universe, and how the LUNAR team hopes to contribute to our fundamental understanding of one of the major epochs. His talk also describes how we have reached the point where the science community is both scientifically and technologically ready to make the next step into beginning to collect data from space based observatories. His presentation is found here:
Another complementary presentation was given by LUNAR deputy director Joe Lazio. His presentation discusses the technical design and structure of the DARE satellite and scientific instruments, with emphasis on the main bi-conal radio antennas. He addresses the design challenges to these types of instruments and the solutions that the DARE satellite incorporates. Lazio also talkes about the orbital trajectory of the DARE satellite, and when it will be collecting different types of data. He also stresses how this mission is designed to be a low mass system, which will save considerably on the cost of construction and launch. Chack out his presentation:
As mentioned above, the LUNAR team plans to design and utilize progresivly complex instruments to probe the early universe. Once the DARE mission flies and can verify that the weak cosmological radio signal can be subtraced from much brighter forground signals (like from the center of the Milky Way and the sun), the next step is to put a test antennae on the lunar surface. This mission, the Radio Observatory on the Lunar Surface for Solar studies (ROLSS), will be a 'proof of concept' mission for the LUNAR team. Proof of concept missions identify potential risks for large scale missions, verify that the instrument design and hardware perform up to NASA standards, and also collect relevant scientific data. In this talk Bob MacDowall, another LUNAR project leader, discusses the scientific discoveries this antennae is designed to make, as well as shows some preliminary models for a deployment system different than the one proposed for the LUNAR array.
Once every 10 years, each branch of the NASA science program (Astrophysics, Planetary Science, Heliophysics, and Earth Science) come together and survey the science community to review what has been learned, what could be learned, and what it will take to sustain discovery in their field. The report is an outline for a plan to continue scientific discovery for the next decade, ensuring a balanced program while simultaneously optimizing scientific return. The most basic goal is to establish a relationship between science objectives and the federal program. The survey outlines the most important research topics, and the mission proposals designed to achieve them. The latest astrophysical decadal survey titled "New Worlds, New Horizons in Astonomy and Astrophysics" was released in 2010. Jack Burns gives a summary of the key research goals and proposed missions in this video lecture:
Doug Currie is one of the project leaders for the lunar laser ranging key science projects on the LUNAR team. In this virtual lecture Currie gives an overview of past lunar ranging science results (from the Apollo missions) and describes the necessity of continuing this research with a new generation of reflectors. Currie has won a NASA grant to build a retro-reflector that could easily be positioned on the lunar surface with a simple lunar lander. You can download the video or PDF of this lecture from the NLSI website:
Every semester, the CU students produce a video broadcast of the current science research being conducted by various science institutions and professors on campus. The link below will take you to the YouTube video of the episode featuring Jack Burns. The link starts you at the segment featuring the LUNAR project, but if you are interested in other CU research groups you can start the video at the beginning. The LUNAR team fully supports student involvement in all aspects of the research project, from keeping current CU students interested in space research to hiring undergraduate student research assistants.
The Epoch of Reionization is one of the hottest research topics in astrophysics. Ground based observations are already underway to image some of the earliest stars and galaxies, although the noise level from man-made radio signals here on Earth severly hinder the imaging power of these telescopes. This article published in Science Magazine describes the progress being made by the LOFAR antennae array in the Netherlands. The array design and implementation is similar to what the LUNAR team is proposing to build on the farside of the Moon. Our deputy director Joe Lazio talkes about the LUNAR design at the end of the article.
The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) invited Jack Burns to be a presenter in their 2009 Evening Lecture series. In this presentaition, Burns talks about the history of lunar exploration and the necessity of continuing that legacy. Burns also addresses the research goals that can be achieved by building a lunar observatory. This is a great lecture introucing the motives behind the LUNAR mission.