NASA is launching a 4G phone network on the moon


Astronaut Scott Carpenter talks with President Kennedy upon returning from space in 1962.


It’s one small step for phones, one giant leap for phonekind: NASA and Nokia are planning the first cellular network on the Moon.

Finnish phone company Nokia has announced it’s working with the US space administration to build a 4G LTE network for moonwalkers by late 2022. As well as voice communication and sending data, the mobile network could power navigation, stream biometric data so controllers can keep an eye on each astronaut’s health and fitness, and remote control robots and sensors on the lunar surface.

It’s a part of NASA’s Artemis program, intended to establish a sustainable base on the lunar surface by 2028. Several companies have been contracted by NASA in deals adding up to more than $370 million.

Nokia is best known for making a number of much-loved early cell phones (and Snake, the game loaded on those phones), but the company is also big in back-end communication equipment from cell towers to satellites. Largely using off-the-shelf commercially available tech such as lightweight 4G base stations, Nokia promises the lunar network will be “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE.” It will also be upgraded to 5G in time. Exciting news for moonwalkers; possibly a bit annoying for anyone who can’t get a signal right here on Earth.

For more on NASA, SpaceX and other cosmic news, check out CNET’s Watch This Space series.

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