The world's first mission to the South Pole of the Moon was announced Thursday by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express, Inc. The private enterprise mission will be both scientific and commercial, and will deliver the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) to the Moon's South Pole aboard a Moon Express robotic lander, establishing permanent astrophysical observations and lunar commercial communications systems for professional and amateur researchers. The announcement was made during a NASA Lunar Science Institute conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
Moon Express will also utilize the mission to explore the Moon's South Pole for mineral resources and water. Lunar probes have provided compelling evidence of mineral and volatile deposits in the Moon's southern polar region where energy and resources may be abundant.
The ILO, with its two-meter dish antenna, will be the world's first instrument to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface, providing scientific research.
ILOA is a global consortium of scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and visionaries who seek to establish a scientific presence on the Moon followed by human exploration and eventual settlement. ILOA expects that the South Pole mission could take place as early as 2016.
Moon Express is the mission partner in the venture, providing the lunar lander, mission architecture and operations. The company was unveiled in August 2010 as a commercial lunar resource company and is partnered with NASA for its lunar lander development. Moon Express will send a series of robotic missions to the Moon in support of science, commerce and exploration starting in 2015.