Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 10

NEWS NOTES

Pandemic Inspires Surge
in Telescope Sales
THERE'S A SILVER LINING to the
COVID-19 pandemic: a rediscovered
interest in the night sky. With that
interest come equipment needs, and
telescope vendors and manufacturers
are reporting a surprising surge in sales.
" I've never seen this kind of growth
in the industry, " Jeff Simon, director
of Sky-Watcher North America, tells
Sky & Telescope. " We often see a bump
in interest around a big event such as a
total solar eclipse or a bright comet, but
this has been unprecedented. "
The companies we talked to are seeing an increase in business from 60% to
400% over the previous year. Moreover,
sales of entry-level telescopes aren't
the sole driver of the increase in sales.
Astro-imaging cameras, robotic tele-

SOLAR SYSTEM

Missions Head for the
Moon in 2021
TWO COMMERCIAL LANDERS will

travel to the lunar surface next year as
precursors to the crewed missions of
NASA's Artemis initiative.
The agency has awarded contracts to
two companies, Astrobotic Technology
and Intuitive Machines, to carry out the
landings under its Commercial Lunar
Payload Services program. The proof-ofconcept landers will carry experiments
and technology demos.
Astrobotic, based out of Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, originally agreed to
launch its Peregrine Mission One in
July 2021. It will be part of the United
Launch Alliance's inaugural flight of
its Vulcan Centaur rocket. The lunar
lander will carry 26 payloads, including
10 from NASA, to Lacus Mortis, a lava
plain on the northeastern part of the
Moon. The NASA payloads will collect
scientific data on the Moon's regolith,
magnetic fields, and volatiles, and test
technology for future missions.
Next up is the Nova-C mission from
Intuitive Machines, headquartered in
10

FEBRUARY 2 021 * SK Y & TELESCOPE

scope mounts, premium eyepieces, and
other specialized equipment are flying
off the virtual shelves as amateurs find
more time to engage in their hobby.
" Who would have thought that
it would take a global pandemic to
save amateur astronomy? " says David
Nagler, president of Tele Vue Optics.

Houston, Texas. Due to launch in October 2021 on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, it
will aim for Oceanus Procellarum, near
where Apollo 18 would have landed had
the U.S. continued the Apollo Moon
program. The lander will carry five
NASA payloads to the surface, including
a low-frequency radio receiver.

" People now have the time to discover
(or rediscover) the night sky, and pull
the trigger on that Go To telescope or
premium refractor they were on the
fence about purchasing. "
But the boom comes with its own
challenges. The global reaction to the
rapid spread of COVID-19 caused international shipping to practically grind to
a halt, leading to long waits on orders.
This is especially true for vendors sourcing from China, who have encountered
extended delivery delays.
But not all vendors face this predicament. Roger Rivers, Sales and Marketing Manager for iOptron, tells us their
production team is keeping up with the
unexpected surge in demand. Dustin
Gibson of Oceanside Photo & Telescope
even says he has found himself in the
pleasant position of hiring new staff in
a difficult time.
„ SEAN WALKER

These NASA-funded commercial
missions are part of the agency's larger
Artemis initiative. Artemis 1, the first
uncrewed launch of NASA's Space
Launch System, is expected in November 2021 and will deliver 13 CubeSats to
and around the Moon.
„ DAVID DICKINSON

S Artist's concept of Astrobotic's Peregrine lander on the Moon

OBSERV ER A ND TELESCOPE: SE A N WA LK ER / S&T;
PEREGRINE L A NDER ON MOON: ASTROBOTIC

ASTRONOMY & SOCIETY



Sky & Telescope - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - February 2021

Contents
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 1
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 3
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 4
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - 5
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Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - February 2021 - Cover4
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