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MIT Technology Review

Exploring at Home and Abroad

Three initiatives at MIT plan for big results.

April 22, 2008

MIT recently announced three ambitious initiatives that will explore environments on this planet and far beyond.

The GRAIL mission will set two closely spaced satellites in orbit around the moon. The timing of radio transmissions between them will reveal differences in their motion caused by variations in the moon’s gravity field.

Closest to home, MIT researchers at the Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling will work with Singaporean scientists to develop ­environmental-sensor networks that could aid efforts to monitor, model, and perhaps even control features of the environment, such as air and water quality. The researchers will initially collect real-time data in Singapore; eventually they hope to deploy the sensor networks widely for both large- and small-scale environmental studies.

Beyond Earth, two satellites slated to launch in 2011 will carry out MIT’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Researchers plan to use the satellites to gather data on lunar gravity, in order to learn about the moon’s internal structure and history and to gain insight into the evolution of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

MIT scientists are also planning to build a set of radio telescopes on the far side of the moon after 2025. They hope to gather information about the cosmic Dark Ages, the period when the universe’s stars and galaxies first took shape.