Bringing to mind plenty of “can you hear me now?” jokes, NASA have partnered with the British National Space Centre (BNSC) to develop a mobile phone network based on the moon. Intended for use by eventual space colonists situated at the moon’s south pole, the system is set to be operational in 2010 via a network of satellites, allowing for communication between colonists, the moon base and scientists back home. A trial mission, called MoonLite, is scheduled to launch in 2012 to test a prototype version of the system; a lunar astronaut will use it to report back information on the soil to demonstrate the project is feasible.
The technology used is similar to that of the Inmarsat satellite telephone system, according to BNSC director of space science David Parker, and intended to provide the communications network required for the next step of full-scale exploration of the moon’s surface:
“The robots and astronauts would be spread out from the base to do exploration and some sorts of comms infrastructure would be needed. MoonLite is taking the first step towards that network” David Parker, director of space science, BNSC)
Once the MoonLite trial is completed, the actual project will begin with one or two orbiting satellites around the south pole, with further added as exploration demands. It’s a long way from HSDPA and WiMax, though: data rates are expected in the region of up to 3kbps for the downlink and up to 2kbps for the uplink.