LUNAR Grants Program – A Call For Proposals for 2010

The Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR), a center headquartered at the University of Colorado and funded by the NASA Lunar Science Institute, announces a call for proposals for a small grants program to study the feasibility of deploying and utilizing astronomical telescopes on the Moon.  Our current research program is focused on Low Frequency Astrophysics & Cosmology initiatives involving low frequency antennas in lunar orbit and on the lunar farside, Low Frequency Heliophysics projects that make use of interferometric arrays, and Gravitational Physics experiments that employ Lunar Laser Ranging technologies.  More details on the LUNAR projects can be found at

As part of our LUNAR programs, we are soliciting additional ideas for astrophysical observatories that are uniquely enabled by the lunar surface, astrophysical theory supporting these observatories, and missions enabled by the lunar, asteroid, and planetary transportation architecture  (e.g., heavy lift rockets).

Properties of the LUNAR Grants Program

For each year’s program, up to $100,000 in total funding is available. We anticipate funding roughly 3-5 proposals per year.  So each proposal should have a budget the ranges from $25K-$35K.  Larger proposals will be entertained although this will narrow your chances of being selected. This may include renewals for a second year of funding for projects awarded, in the preceding year.  See the LUNAR website for a list of proposals funded last year.

The following types of proposals are welcomed in this 2010 call:

  • Instrumentation: The development of prototype instruments, which could potentially be used for lunar astrophysical observatories.
  • Concept Studies: The development of concepts for astrophysical observatories.
  • Technology Development: The advancement of technologies that will be required for future lunar-based telescopes.
  • Theory: The study of possible astrophysical observations in the lunar environment from a theoretical perspective.


Grants are for one year, with a possibility of renewal.

Awardees will present results at an annual LUNAR science symposium to be held in Boulder, Colorado. Deadline for proposals:  July 1, 2010.


Schedule and Checklist of Required Items for Proposal Submission

We ask that you submit a single PDF file containing the cover letter and proposal details typeset in 12-point font on 8.5”x11” pages with 1-inch margins.  The proposal's cover page must list all of the investigators and their respective roles (PI, Co-I, collaborator, etc.), the PI's institution and contact information, the title of proposal, and an abstract of 300 words or less.

The cover page should be followed by a five page (total, including references) science justification and work plan, and one page each for the budget, budget justification, and management plan.  The proposal should include the following:

  • The scientific description of your research plan.
  • A management section that describes the resources required, including the expected contribution from each of the investigators. This section should also provide an estimate of the level of effort (e.g., 0.5 FTE of a postdoc), and the maximum budget request.
  • A detailed budget and budget justification, along with any cost-match from the PI or Co-I institutions. 

For more information and details about the LUNAR Grants Program contact:  Matt Benjamin at 303-492-4073 or

Abstracts of three projects funded in 2009

  1. Scalable Superconductor Bearing System for Lunar Telescopes and Instruments: Design and Proof of Concept

    PI: Peter C. Chen, Lightweight Telescopes, Inc.


    We propose to design and build a demonstration model of a two-axis instrument pointing system using high temperature superconductor (HTS) bearings. Unlike previous designs, this new configuration is simple and easy to implement. Most importantly, it can be scaled to accommodate instruments ranging in size from decimeters (laser comm systems) to meters (solar panels, communication dishes, optical telescopes, optical interferometers) to decameters and beyond (VLA type radio interferometer elements). We propose to study the details and characteristics of the mount structure and investigate its operational parameters and limiting factors when used on the Moon.
  2. Material Development and Characterization for Instruments, Support Structures, and Large Aperture Astrophysical Observatories on the Moon

    PI: Michael E. Van Steenberg, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


    We propose to study a newly discovered material that shows promise as a building block for infrastructures and instrument support and perhaps as an enabling factor for future large astrophysical observatories on the Moon and in space. Our group has developed a material that uses lunar regolith to make a substance that is demonstrably harder than concrete. The fabrication process is simple, does not require water, and can take place under lunar conditions of vacuum and radiation. Preliminary tests suggest that the substance may be very stable, leading to the possibility of future in situ fabrication of large telescopes and radio interferometers. We propose to study how the properties of this ‘lunar concrete’ can be quantified and optimized, by changing the proportions of the ingredients and measuring the corresponding changes in the Young’s modulus, Poisson ratio, shear modulus, and ultimate tensile strength. Measurements are also to be made of samples kept under vacuum and cooled by liquid nitrogen to simulate lunar exposure. Sets of samples are to be made using the standard JSC1-AC lunar regolith simulant as well as a newly developed high fidelity simulant.
  3. Lunar Occultation Observer (LOCO)

    PI: Richard S. Miller, University of Alabama, Huntsville


    The Lunar Occultation Observer (LOCO) is a new gamma-ray astrophysics mission concept being developed to probe the nuclear regime (~0.02-10 MeV). It will perform an all-sky survey of the Cosmos, and will the have capability to address multiple high-priority science goals. Placed into lunar orbit, LOCO will utilize the Moon's unique environment to maximize performance relative to terrestrial endeavors. Specifically, LOCO will use the Moon to occult astrophysical sources as they rise and set along the lunar limb. The encoded temporal modulation will then be used to image the sky and enable spectroscopic, time-variability, point- & extended-source analyses. This approach enables the excellent flux sensitivity, position, and energy resolution required of the next-generation nuclear astrophysics mission. In addition, occultation imaging eliminates the need for complex, position sensitive detectors. The LOCO concept is cost effective, and has a relatively straightforward and scalable implementation.

For more information and details about the LUNAR Grants Program contact:  Matt Benjamin at 303-492-4073 or