- A new NASA study examines the possibility of building a Wi-Fi network on the moon.
- It’s part of a proposal to tackle unequal access to Internet services, NASA’s Steve Olson told Insider.
- The framework, which is conceptual at this stage, also hopes to inform NASA Artemis program.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.com.
A new study unveiled by NASA is examining the possibility of building a lunar Wi-Fi network, the agency reported.
It comes in an effort to address insufficient Internet access in parts of the U.S. and help inform future Artemis missions.
Mary Lobo, Director of Incubation and Technological Innovation at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, said in a press release: “This presented an excellent opportunity to develop solutions to the challenges we face in sending astronauts to the moon under Artemis while also addressing a growing social issue in our hometown.”
The Artemis program, unveiled last year, is designed to land people on the moon for the first time since 1972. Its plan is to launch an unmanned mission around the moon in 2021, followed by a manned moon flight in 2023, then a landing moon in 2024.
The study, conducted by NASA’s Compass Lab, is important because “crews, guns, science instruments and mining equipment will need reliable communications links to the Moon / Artemis base camp and eventually back to Earth,” said Steve Olson, a compass lab leader. – NASA Glenn, he told Insider.
NASA reported in a press release that digital inequality and lack of access to adequate Internet service are a socio-economic concern across the United States, exacerbated by the Covid-19 epidemic.
According to a report by the National Alliance for Digital Inclusion, about 31 percent of Cleveland households do not have broadband access.
Following these findings, the Greater Cleveland, an economic development organization, approached NASA’s Glenn Research Center to analyze the technical barriers to digital inequality and examine whether there is an opportunity to use the moon to address the digital divide on Earth.
To assess what such a network might look like on the moon, the compass team at NASA’s Glenn Research Center evaluated how a terrestrial network could operate in the nearby Cleveland neighborhood, Olson told Insider.
Their study compared the lunar surface area and area around Cleveland to address the technical challenges associated with Wi-Fi connectivity in the local area. Although the equipment will be different due to different Earth and Moon environments, the Wi-Fi frequencies may be the same as they are on Earth, Olson told Insider.
Engineers have found that connecting Wi-Fi routers to about 20,000 flashlight or other service poles in Cleveland can provide Internet access to any home in any given neighborhood, according to Olson.
By placing routers no more than 100 meters apart, a four-person house can earn speeds of 7.5 megabits per second. “Such a service would allow users basic access to the Internet to do study work, banks and stores and access information online. It would not be enough to stream video or 4K games,” Olson added.
Olson said the results of the study would be provided to NASA mission planners for future Artemis missions and possible base camp designs.
He added: “We are also sharing them with NASA technologists who need to adjust Wi-Fi Equipment for the extremes of the lunar environment includes dust and extreme temperatures. “
Although still conceptual at this point, NASA staff hopes that Wi-Fi research can eventually help worthless communities in U.S. cities and provide them with reliable Internet access.