Europe will be first to return to the Moon?
Not the USA, not Russia, not China, but Europe could be setting the tone for the future surface exploration of the Moon, thanks to Vodafone, Nokia, Audi and the engineers from PTScientists.
In somewhat of a commercial stunt, the European companies Nokia from Finland and Vodafone Germany will set up the first commercial service on the Moon. Sharing technology and using a 4G network, they will beam back images from the first also privately funded Moon rover: the Audi 02 Rover, built by PTScientists.
The Mission to the Moon is due to launch in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The much discussed future European Moon Village could make an early start and could make good use of this service.
Imagination at work
If you recognise the Audi rover from a Hollywood Movie, that is correct. It made a short cameo appearance in the 2017 Movie “Alien: Covenant”.
How does this cooperation work?
According to a Nokia press release, Vodafone’s network expertise will be used to set up the Moon’s first 4G network, connecting two Audi lunar quattro rovers to a base station in the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module (ALINA).
Nokia, through Nokia Bell Labs, will create a space-grade Ultra Compact Network that will be the lightest ever developed – weighing less than one kilo, the same as a bag of sugar.
Nokia Bell Labs has a long and prestigious lineage in influencing the evolution of telecommunications and information technologies, as seen through the eight Nobel Prizes that Bell Labs researchers have been awarded over past decades.
The 4G network will enable the Audi lunar quattro rovers to communicate and transfer scientific data and HD video while they carefully approach and study NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts to walk on the Moon (Commander Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt) to explore the Taurus-Littrow valley in December 1972.
Among the firsts:
- A completely privately funded moon lander mission where several companies work together;
- Vodafone testing indicates that the base station should be able to broadcast 4G using the 1800 MHz frequency band and;
- send back the first ever live HD video feed of the Moon’s surface, which will be broadcast to a global audience via a deep space link that interconnects with the PTScientists server in the Mission Control Centre in Berlin;
- A 4G network is highly energy-efficient compared to analogue radio and that will be crucial to Mission to the Moon and is the first step to building communications infrastructure for future missions.
It is no surprise that all parties involved are very proud. In order of rising eloquence we hear from three CEO’s involved:
According to the Nokia press release, Nokia Chief Technology Officer and Bell Labs President, Marcus Weldon, said: “We are very pleased to have been selected by Vodafone to be their technology partner. This important mission is supporting, among other things, the development of new space-grade technologies for future data networking, processing and storage, and will help advance the communications infrastructure required for academics, industry and educational institutions in conducting lunar research. These aims have potentially wide-ranging implications for many stakeholders and humanity as a whole, and we look forward to working closely with Vodafone and the other partners in the coming months, prior to the launch in 2019.”
The Vodafone Germany CEO, Dr. Hannes Ametsreiter, also commented: “This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure. It is also a great example of an independent, multi-skilled team achieving an objective of immense significance through their courage, pioneering spirit and inventiveness.”
And finally Robert Böhme, CEO and Founder of PTScientists, said: “This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system. In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet. With Mission to the Moon we will establish and test the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the Moon. The great thing about this LTE solution is that it saves so much power, and the less energy we use sending data, the more we have to do science!”
We wish them the best of luck.
- Nokia Press release, 27 February 2018, Nokia is selected by Vodafone to be its technology partner for Mission to the Moon project, https://www.nokia.com/en_int/news/releases/2018/02/27/nokia-is-selected-by-vodafone-to-be-its-technology-partner-for-mission-to-the-moon-project
- The project website: http://mission-to-the-moon.com