German scientists are hoping to set up a 4G network on the Moon, to support the arrival of two lunar rovers planned for next year.
Vodafone Germany announced in a statement yesterday that it planned to support a private mission from a German team known as the Part-Time Scientists (PTScientists), with help from Nokia Bell Labs. They are planning to send a rover to the Moon as early as next year on a launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system,” Robert Böhme, CEO and Founder of PTScientists, said in the statement.
“In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet.”
PTScientists were originally one of the competitors in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition to race across the surface of the Moon, which was canceled last month. But they withdrew from the competition in 2017, instead seeking other private investment to make their lunar dreams a reality.
Teaming up with Audi, the team has designed two “lunar Quattro” rovers to explore the Moon. The plan is to land these near NASA’s Apollo 17 landing site, drive up to it, and return images and HD video to Earth.
To communicate with each other, and to send data back to Earth (including a live video stream), Vodafone and Nokia will develop an Ultra Compact Network to accompany the mission. Weighing less than 1 kilogram (35 ounces), it will broadcast 4G using the 1800 MHz frequency band.
“A 4G network is highly energy efficient compared to analogue radio and that will be crucial to Mission to the Moon and is the first step to building communications infrastructure for future missions,” the statement noted.
Theoretically, an astronaut with a phone could actually connect to this network, Böhme told IFLScience back in August 2017. And the idea is that this system could be used by future explorers – especially relevant now that NASA is planning to return to the Moon.
Whether PTScientists actually launches next year, well, that remains to be seen. Getting to the Moon is tough, as evidenced by the cancelation of the Lunar XPRIZE. But they have got some significant backing behind them, so maybe they can make it happen.
And if they do, there might just be a 4G network waiting for any future astronauts who also make the trip.