According to a project announced Tuesday by the University of São Paulo, Brazil plans to launch its first mission to the moon in December 2020 with a nanosatellite to orbit the star to the effects of the space environment on different life forms.
The project, named Garatéa-L, brings together several major Brazilian space research institutions at a cost of 35 million reais (about 10.3 million dollars), Brazil’s most prestigious university reported on its website.
The aim of the project is to send a probe to the lunar orbit, 384,400 kilometers from Earth, from where it would gather data on the lunar surface and conduct pioneering scientific experiments with human microbes, molecules and cells.
The initiative was presented by its main coordinator, space engineer Lucas Fonseca, founder of the company Airvantis, at an event at the School of Engineering of Sao Carlos of USP.
“The idea is that we can benefit from the recent revolution of nanosatellites, better known as cubesats, to place Brazil on the map of interplanetary exploration,” according to Fonseca, a USP researcher who worked at the European Space Agency and collaborated in the Rosetta mission, that in 2014 managed to pose a probe in comet 67P.
Fonseca gathered in the mission to entities such as the National Institute of Space Studies (INPE), the Technological Institute of Aeronautics of USP, the National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light and the Institute of Technology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul. These institutions are already working on raising funds to finance the project and have the probe built in September 2019, when they commemorate the first 50 years of man’s arrival to the moon. The nanosatellite would be sent aboard the Indian rocket PSLV-C11, which successfully sent a mission to the Moon in 2008 (Chandrayaan-1).
The launch would be carried out by two British companies and in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Space Agency, which on the same flight would send the Pathfinder, the first deep space mission of commercial character.
The European agencies plan to place in the lunar orbit diverse nanosatellites, among them the Brazilian, with the support of a ship, that also would be in charge to guarantee the communications with Earth. “It’s a unique opportunity to work with Europeans on a project that can elevate Brazil’s ambitions to another level,” said Fonseca.
The project was named Garatéa, which in the Tupi-Guarani language means “looking for lives”, because its main objective is to study the effects of various colonies of living microorganisms, molecules and human cells that will be on board the satellite and exposed to Radiation for several months.
This experiment is coordinated by researchers from the National Synchrotron Light Laboratory and the Institute of Chemistry of USP.
An instrument to measure radiation levels in the lunar orbit will also be shipped on the satellite, the result of which is of interest for future long-term manned missions to the Moon.