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AE 590 Seminar: Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) : A multi-agent robotic mission to peek at the early Universe from the far-side of the Moon

Event Type
Department of Aerospace Engineering
CIF 2035
Nov 8, 2021   4:00 - 5:00 pm  
Dr. Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay (PhD '16), Robotics Technologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Courtney McLearin

An ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope on the far side of the Moon has significant advantages compared to Earthbased and Earth-orbiting telescopes, including:
(1) Enabling observations of the Universe at wavelengths longer than 10 meters (i.e., frequencies below 30 MHz), wavelengths at which critical cosmological or extrasolar planetary signatures are predicted to appear, yet cannot be observed from the ground due to absorption from the Earth’s ionosphere; and
(2) The Moon acts as a physical shield that isolates a far-side lunar-surface telescope from radio interference from sources on the Earth’s surface, the ionosphere, Earth-orbiting satellites, and the Sun’s radio emission during the lunar night.


In this talk, I will present the conceptual design of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) on the far side of the Moon. We propose to deploy a wire mesh using wall-climbing DuAxel robots in a 3–5 km diameter crater, with a suitable depth-to-diameter ratio, to form a parabolic reflector with a 1 km diameter. LCRT will be the largest filled-aperture radio telescope in the Solar System; larger than the former Arecibo telescope (305 m diameter) and the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) (500 m diameter).

LCRT’s science objective is to track the evolution of the neutral intergalactic medium before and during the formation of the first stars in the 10–100 m wavelength band (3–30 MHz frequency band), which is consistent with priorities identified in the Astrophysics decadal survey. I will describe LCRT’s science objectives and the key technology challenges that need to be overcome to make this concept a reality. We envisage that LCRT will open a new window for humanity’s exploration of the Universe.


Dr. Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay is a Robotics Technologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, where he develops novel algorithms for future multi-agent and swarm missions. In 2020, he was named a NASA NIAC fellow for his work on the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope on the far-side of the Moon. He received his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering in 2016 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, where he specialized in probabilistic swarm guidance and distributed estimation. He earned his Bachelors and Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2010 from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India, where as an undergraduate, he co-founded and led the institute’s student satellite project Pratham, which was launched into low Earth orbit in September 2016. His engineering expertise stems from a long-standing interest in the science underlying space missions, since winning the gold medal for India at the 9th International Astronomy Olympiad held in Ukraine in 2004. Saptarshi’s current research interests include robotics, multi-agent systems and swarms, dynamics and controls, estimation theory, probability theory, and systems engineering. He has published more than 40 papers in journals and refereed conferences.

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