Nokia is teaming up with NASA to ensure that the new wave of lunar astronauts will be able to post their experience to their Instagram account if they so desire. The Finnish telecoms company will receive $14.1m funding from the US space agency to build a 4G cellphone network on the moon. The announcement comes as part of a $370m slew of contracts issued yesterday, as NASA pushes toward a return to the Moon in 2024 – with the first crew of the Artemis missions expected to include at least one woman.
The contract has been awarded to Nokia’s US subsidiary but will draw on the experience of the whole company. “The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards,” said NASA in awarding the contract.
The 4G network would be used by astronauts, vehicles and as a foothold for any future permanent Moonbase: “With NASA funding, Nokia will look at how terrestrial technology could be modified for the lunar environment to support reliable, high-rate communications,” adds Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
During the original 1969-1972 Apollo missions, engineers were fully reliant on radio communication through a network of transmitters, base stations, and relays, back on earth, using NASA’s ‘S-Band’ of 2-4Ghz. A digital, cellular service will be a vast improvement in terms of quality and efficiency of surface-to-surface communications, once we return to the Moon to stay. It does give rise to the question of why 5G isn’t being considered. We believe this is because 5G signals can only reach shorter distances, meaning that more base stations would be required. 4G will do an ample job in those early days, with far less infrastructure. Maybe the moon will get a 5G (or even 6G) upgrade once we’re settled on the surface. Just don’t expect Huawei to win that tender.