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Nasa picks Nokia to bring 4G network to the Moon

As it prepares to head for Mars, the space agency aims to set up a human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.

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Moon rising over mountaintop, file photo. Image: Dimitris Tosidis / EPA

Finnish networks giant Nokia was chosen by Nasa as a partner to deploy the first LTE (4G) wireless communications system on the Moon, the firm announced on Monday.

The US space agency has plans to use the Moon as a launching point for future space explorations, including a mission to Mars.

In late 2022, the company's US-based Nokia Bell Labs will build and deploy the first "ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE solution on the lunar surface," according to a company release.

To carry out the effort, Nokia is to partner with US-based space product and services firm Intuitive Machines. Nokia said that once the lunar wireless network is established, it will provide communication capabilities for command and control activities, remote control of lunar vehicles, navigation as well as high-definition video streaming.

The lunar network will be based on LTE technology used by millions of mobile device users on Earth for roughly the past decade, but designed for the harsh conditions involved, including launch and landing as well as on the lunar surface itself, the firm said.

Nokia's CTO and Nokia Bell Labs President, Marcus Weldon, said the firms' experience in space and satellite technologies will help to establish the first cellular communications network in space.

"Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface. By building the first high performance wireless network solution on the moon, Nokia Bell Labs is once again planting the flag for pioneering innovation beyond the conventional limits,” Weldon said in the release.

Meanwhile, Nasa plans to continue partnering with various entities to develop technologies that will benefit future space missions for its Artemis programme which aims to land "the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024," according to the space agency.

Nokia said Nasa aims to establish operations on the Moon as a future launch site for an expedition to Mars by the end of this decade.

Intuitive Machines announced last week that it had been awarded Nasa's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract to deliver gear and technology to search and drill for ice and water on the Moon, as the space agency prepares to establish a human presence on the lunar surface.

Steve Altemus, Intuitive Machines' CEO and president, said being selected to assist Nasa's return to the Moon was an "incredible honor and even greater challenge."

“Establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon requires the success of the CLPS initiative. We have a tremendous responsibility to Nasa and opportunity to animate humankind’s pursuit of knowledge through exploration,” Altemus said.

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