NASA explores lunar Wi-Fi network to bridge Earth’s digital divide

  • A new study from NASA explores the possibility of building a Wi-Fi network on the moon.
  • He compared a lunar surface to an area around Cleveland, NASA’s Steve Oleson told Insider.
  • The framework, which is conceptual at this point, also hopes to inform NASA’s Artemis program.

A new study revealed by NASA considers the possibility of building a lunar Wi-Fi network, the agency reported.

This is to address inadequate internet access in parts of the United States and help inform future Artemis missions.

Mary Lobo, director of technology incubation and innovation at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, said in a press release: Our hometown. “

The Artemis program, which was unveiled last year, aims 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 an overflight. crewed moon in 2023, then a lunar flight. landing in 2024.

The study, which was conducted by NASA’s Compass Lab, is important because “crew, rovers, scientific instruments and mining equipment will need reliable communications links to a Lunar / Artemis base camp. and finally back on Earth “, Steve Oleson, head of the Compass Lab. at NASA Glenn, Insider said.

NASA reported in the press release that digital inequalities and lack of access to adequate internet service is a socio-economic concern in the United States, which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, about 31% of households in Cleveland do not have broadband access.

Following these findings, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, an economic development organization, approached NASA’s Glenn Research Center to analyze the technical barriers of digital inequality and see if there was an opportunity to use the moon to solve the digital divide of the 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 might work in a neighboring Cleveland neighborhood, Oleson told Insider.

Their study compared a lunar surface with an area around the city to address the technical challenges associated with Wi-Fi connectivity in the local area. While the equipment would be different due to the different terrestrial and lunar environments, the Wi-Fi frequencies could be the same as on Earth, Oleson told Insider.

Engineers have found that connecting Wi-Fi routers to about 20,000 street lights or other utility poles in Cleveland could provide Internet access to every household in a given neighborhood, according to Oleson.

By placing the routers within 100 yards of each other, a four-person house could gain about 7.5 megabits per second in download speed. “Such a service would allow users basic Internet access for doing homework, banking and shopping, and accessing information on the Internet. It would not be sufficient for streaming.

4K
video or games, ”Oleson added.

Oleson said the study results will be provided to NASA mission planners for future Artemis missions and possible future base camp designs.

He added: “We also share them with the NASA technologists who need to adapt the Wi-Fi equipment to extremes of the lunar environment, including dust and temperature extremes. “

While still conceptual at this point, the NASA team is hopeful that the Wi-Fi study can eventually help underserved communities in U.S. cities and provide them with reliable internet access.

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Travis Durham

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