The phrase "lunar telescope" conjures the image of a manned base with a resident staff of astronomers. Accompanying this image are a century-scale timeline and a budget far exceeding that of the Space Station. Recent advances in miniaturized electronics and lightweight materials, together with the maturation of mobile robot technology, make possible a new image of an unmanned observatory that is constructed and operated from Earth using telerobotics on a decade-scale timeline.

Carnegie Mellon University proposes a five-year program to develop telerobotic technologies to deploy elements of a lunar optical interferometer. The program will demonstrate rover deployment of optical telescopes within a 1 kilometer diameter circle. The telescopes will each point at the same star, and relay the gathered light to a simulated beam combiner on a central lander mock-up.

Key research issues include the following:

In addition to developing and demonstrating technology that will influence future science missions, the proposed work will train the next generation of space roboticists, create spinoff opportunities for the astronomical instrumentation and surveying industries, and rekindle public excitement at the prospect of returning to the Moon.