The Moon Is Getting 4G Cell Service and Live Video Feed

On Tuesday, German telecommunications company Vodafone announced a new partnership with Nokia to bring 4G coverage to the Moon next year. It’s part of an initiative run by a German company called PTScientists, which wants to land the first non-governmental mission on the Moon.

If you’re wondering why precisely the Moon needs a 4G network—which, to be clear, is better connectivity than people can access in parts of Africa right now—it ties back to that first nongovernmental mission. Specifically, the company wants to land two rovers on the Moon to examine the Apollo 17 vehicle astronauts left behind the last time humans visited, in 1972.

That will put the equipment on the near side of the Moon, where it’s much easier to land and communicate with Earth. But PTScientists has its eye on sending a whole lot of data home—not just scientific data, but also a live HD video feed of the Moon’s surface. (As to what sort of action that live feed would actually show, it could watch the sun rise and set, and perhaps could catch some dust storms.)

The 4G technology is supposed to weigh about two pounds, making it a tiny system. In addition to allowing the two rovers to communicate with each other as they wander the Moon separately, the device would beam back a 4G signal back to Earth.

 As of August, the project was hoping to launch late this year, but Vodafone now says the devices are supposed to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime in 2019. None of the companies involved—Vodafone, PTScientists, and Nokia—appear on the rocket company’s future missions list. According to the Financial Times, the whole endeavor will cost in the range of tens of millions of dollars.
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