Vodafone, in partnership with Nokia, has announced they will be constructing the first 4G network on the moon, to be completed by 2019. And the timing couldn’t be more advantageous, taking place exactly “50 years after the first NASA astronauts walked on its surface,” noted a Vodafone representative.

It’s all part of a larger plan by Berlin-based PTScientists—a group of ‘part-time scientists’ seeking to ensure “more people benefit from access to space, because space belongs to everyone”—to document the remains of the Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle left there by NASA in 1972 during the last of its Apollo missions.

The reason for the implementation of 4G is that the roving vehicles being used by PTScientists for the task—two Audi lunar Quattro rovers—can’t generate enough power to send a radio signal back to Berlin. This is especially true for the form of transmission they were seeking to use: HD live-streaming video.

Audi’s Lunar Quattro

4G, on the other hand, uses much less power than analogue, and will enable the Audis to stream video (operating in the 1800 MHz frequency band) back to their base station, which will then relay the signal to Earth. There are side benefits as well: “The great thing about this [4G] solution is that it saves so much power,” PTScientists founder and CEO Robert Bohme proclaimed, “and the less energy we use sending data, the more we have to do science.”

The team at PTScientists

Nokia, for its part, will be making the space-ready networking gear which will reportedly weigh less than 1 kg, or, about a bag of sugar.

In an apparent twist in the story, David Szondy at NewAtlas points out that in 2011 NASA released guidelines effectively asking future moon missions to “[steer] clear of U.S. lunar sites whenever possible.” In his initial reporting he even mentioned Apollo 17 specifically as one of two sites to “especially” avoid. The reason: dust. He explains [emphasis mine]:

“One advantage of being on the Moon is that there isn’t any air to suspend dust particles. Unfortunately, that also means that there’s no air to slow down even the tiniest particle. An impacting object or the blast from a landing rocket can kick up huge quantities of dust and hurl them with such velocity that they can go into orbit around the Moon or even escape entirely. This was shown during the Apollo 12 mission when the astronauts examined the Surveyor 3 lander, which NASA had sent a couple of years earlier to scout out landing sites. Despite being far off, the Lunar Module Intrepid created such a storm of dust that the Surveyor suffered a miniature artillery barrage.”

However, as Mr. Szondy also points out, these are but mere guidelines—with no international space-justice body to enforce them. And can’t you just imagine the incredible excitement that will come from being able to view an HD livestream of the moon,  coupled with the immense disappointment and shame that’ll come from finding out that this pleasure was only possible at the expense of our dearest space relics which we have now destroyed with our upswept dust? Kinda like how we feel about the Industrial Revolution each day a new species goes extinct. 


Feature Image Courtesy NASA