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First-ever Mission to Moon's South Pole Announced

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Jul 20, 2013 12:18 PM EDT
Full moon
A blue moon is scheduled to take place this week, though not in the terms that most understand it -- it's not blue and it's not the second full moon to take place during the month of August. Rather, the event will mark a "seasonal blue moon," or the third of four full moons to take place in a season as defined by the period between a solstice and equinox, or vice versa. (Photo : Reuters)

The first ever mission to the Moon's south pole, likely to occur sometime in 2016, was announced Friday by the non-profit International Lunar Observatory (ILOA) and Moon Express, Inc., a privately funded "lunar resource company."

According to the latter, the mission will fulfill both commercial and scientific roles with the company looking to utilize the opportunity to explore the Moon's south pole for mineral resources and water. This is based on the fact, the company notes, that 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 company's site explains.

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Meanwhile, the ILOA will use the opportunity to deliver the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) to the lunar surface aboard a Moon Express robotic lander.

The ILO, with its 2-meter dish antenna, will establish "permanent astrophysical observations and lunar commercial communications systems for professional and amateur researchers."

In doing so, the ILO will be the world's first instrument designed to conduct "international astrophysical observations" as well as communication from the lunar surface, as announced during a NASA Lunar Science Institute Conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

The reason for this is several-fold, those behind it explain.

"We are 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," Steve Durst, founder and director of the ILOA and Space Age Publishing Company said, the latter of which represents the ILOA's commercial affiliate.

Moon Express's main role, on the other hand, will be that of providing the lunar lander and overseeing operations. First unveiled in 2010, the company is partnered with NASA in lunar landing development and plans on sending a series of robotic missions to the Moon "in support of science, commerce and exploration" beginning in 2015.

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