Wifi on the Moon: NASA is studying the feasibility of a broadband network in the future

The United States wants to return to the moon “to stay there”. On site, the permanent base must be connected at high speed, and for this, NASA is working on practical solutions by also trying to reduce the digital divide on Earth.

in a Article published on October 5, 2021 on their website, the US space agency says it is studying the feasibility of deploying wifi on the moon, with a shared desire to combat digital inequality on Earth.

Based on the fact that the Covid-19 epidemic has exacerbated the digital divide across the Atlantic, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance conducted a study in Cleveland aimed at identifying the number of families with difficulties accessing the Internet. However, in this city, approximately 31% of the population still does not have access to broadband. Alerted by the results of this investigation, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, which works for the economic development of this Ohio city, invited NASA’s Glenn Research Center, also based in Cleveland, to Examining technical barriers to digital inequality.

Still holding on to the stars, NASA researchers decided to use the state of the moon for this study. “We were happy. It was a fantastic opportunity to develop solutions to the challenges we face in communicating to the moon for the Artemis Program.”Marie Lobo, director of incubation and technology innovation at this lab, explains. Reminder, Artemis It is the name that NASA gave to its program of returning humans to the moon after the Apollo missions.

Routers and street lights

This is how the Glenn Research Center has sought to solve the technical challenges of Wi-Fi connectivity in local communities by applying approaches adapted to the lunar environment, with interesting results. According to this study, installing wifi routers spaced approximately 100 meters apart on approximately 20,000 street lights in Cleveland would solve the city’s connectivity issues by providing every home with a throughput of at least 7.5 Mb/s. “It will be enough to do homework or make an IP call, but not enough to stream 4K video. By bringing the routers closer together and installing them between 50 and 75 meters from each other, we will significantly improve bandwidth”Steve Olison, lead research team, notes.

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The Greater Cleveland Partnership builds on this analysis to drive demands for infrastructure facilities at the county level to address the city’s digital divide. “NASA’s work helps pave the way for evaluating responses to bids to determine the most effective plan to connect our neighborhoods.”, explains Catherine Tkachik, director of innovation and performance for Cuyahoga County, which Cleveland depends on.

On the moon, masts or equipment connected 100%

As for the lunar portion of the study, it aimed to install a grid in the Malapert block, a large crater near the moon’s south pole that, according to NASA, is ideal for creating a base. Expose it to the sun and its usable resource on site – water! – Possible contacts in direct line with the Earth for a long time have made it one of the distinctive landing points of the Agency.

NASA recognizes that to properly explore a natural satellite, it will be necessary to deploy a high-performance network, connecting itself to deep space network. Habitats, laboratories, rovers, gates, landers, astronauts…everything has to be connected, even if there are still many unknowns regarding wifi connectivity on the moon. Desolate Earth is certainly less prone to interference, but it is clear that the Moon does not have a well-developed and densely resilient power grid, which would be part of the challenges there.

The team recommends that the routers be installed on several 24-foot poles attached to habitats, landing gear, or other large equipment. In contrast to one large tower, this approach will provide astronauts in their habitats with network stability, while mobile explorers can switch between routers.”, can we read on the NASA website. It is still a very conceptual view of lunar Wi-Fi whose plans will evolve further until Project Artemis is realized. Not forgetting that the Chinese, Russians, Indians and Europeans have not been left out when it comes to major lunar projects.

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