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Moon to get 4G mobile network next year to stream HD videos to earth

The companies are working with Berlin-based PTScientists, whose privately funded Mission to the Moon is due to launch in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

tech Updated: Mar 01, 2018 10:44 IST
Artist’s rendition of the Audi lunar quattro rover that will be sent to the Moon by PTScientists to study NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, in 1972.
Artist’s rendition of the Audi lunar quattro rover that will be sent to the Moon by PTScientists to study NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, in 1972. (Courtesy PTScientists)

The moon will get its first 4G mobile network next year, enabling high-definition video to be streamed from the lunar landscape to the earth, part of a project to back the first privately funded moon mission.

Vodafone Germany, network equipment maker Nokia and carmaker Audi are working together to support the mission, 50 years after the first American astronauts walked on the moon.

The companies are working with Berlin-based PTScientists, whose privately funded Mission to the Moon is due to launch in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The 4G network will enable two Audi lunar quattro rovers to communicate and transfer scientific data and HD video while they approach and study NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, in December 1972.

The rovers cannot send the scientific data, HD video and photos they collect directly to earth because it takes too much power. Instead, they will use the 4G network to stream the data to a base station, which will beam it back to earth.

Vodafone’s network expertise will be used to set up the 4G network, while Nokia Bell Labs will create a space-grade ultra compact network that will be the lightest ever developed – weighing less than one kilo, the same as a bag of sugar.

Testing by Vodafone indicates the base station should be able to broadcast 4G using the 1800 MHz frequency band and send back the first live HD video feed of the moon’s surface, which will be broadcast to a global audience via a deep space link that connects with the PTScientists server at the Mission Control Centre in Berlin.

“This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure,” Vodafone Germany chief executive Hannes Ametsreiter said.

One executive involved said the decision to build a 4G network, rather than a state-of-the-art 5G network, was made because the next generation networks remain in the testing and trial stage and are not stable enough to ensure they will work from the lunar surface.

A 4G network is also highly energy efficient compared to analogue radio and that will be crucial for Mission to the Moon and is the first step to building communications infrastructure for future missions.

Robert Böhme, CEO and founder of PTScientists, said: “This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system. In order for humanity to leave the cradle of earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet. With Mission to the Moon we will establish and test the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the moon.”