By Erik Derr ( | First Posted: May 29, 2013 11:25 PM EDT

(Photo : courtesy NASA)

Ever have one of those days where everything seemed to fall into place, but still felt as if it were missing something --- like a romantic Earthrise?

The Hawaii-based International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA), led by businessman and educator Steve Durst, has unveiled plans for the the first privately-funded telescope mission to the Moon, to be launched in 2015. 

Designed and built under contract by Silicon Valley-based Moon Express, Inc., the International Lunar Observatory (ILO-X) will capture unique images of galaxies, stars, planets, the earth and moon itself that will be be accessible to educators, researchers and the general public what an ILOA press release described as "a pioneering experiment to democratize access to space exploration."

The mission announcement was made at the ILOA Galaxy Forum Canada 2013, held May 25 --- the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's famous "Moon speech" --- at the British Columbia Institute of Technology Aerospace Technology Campus in Vancouver.

The Internet-based ILO-X access and control system was tested in December 2011, during a demonstration from the summit of Mauna Kea, according to ILOA, which allowed science teams and individuals from around the world to access and operate a prototype of lunar-bound 10cm telescope, as if it were on the moon. 

The ILO-X mission will help define the rapidly-evolving model for commercial, moon-based investments intended to expand the fields of science, education, space exploration and commercial development

"The primary goal of the International Lunar Observatory is to expand human understanding of the galaxy and cosmos through observation from our moon," said Durst. "We are extremely excited about sending the ILO-X to the moon as soon as possible and continuing our progress toward a permanent human presence on the moon."

About the size of a shoe box, and with a mass of about 5 pounds, the ILO-X telescope will utilize state-of-the-art optical technology, including micro-miniaturized electronics, to deliver capture deep-space images of objects inside and outside our the Milky Way Galaxy. 

ILO-X technology could potentially help detect of dangerous asteroids headed Earth's way, as well as locate new planetary resources.

"We're excited to help the ILOA design, build and deliver the worlds' first private telescope to the moon," said Bob Richards, co-founder and CEO of Moon Express. "This is inspirational space science and entrepreneurship at its best."

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