The Moon is Getting Its Own 4G Mobile Phone Network
There are no payphones on the Moon, but you knew that already. But what are you to do if you find yourself wandering around the landing site for the original Apollo 11 mission, and you want to call (or text) home to tell your family how cool it is?
Thankfully, the moon isn't going to be technologically isolated for much longer. Communications mega-company Vodafone has announced plans to install cell phone towers across the Moon, so that it'll be easier to chat with friends, coworkers, and business clients back on Earth.
The move is being made specifically by Vodafone's German arm, and will be built in conjunction with Nokia, who'll be providing the actual hardware necessary to get phone signal to our largest (but not our only) natural satellite. According to the company's Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter:
Yeah, no kidding. It is pretty radical to try installing cell phone towers on a giant rock in space with no atmosphere, and no people living on its surface.
Now is probably a good time to remember just how far away the Moon actually is. It's not close; some impressive technology will be needed in order to make this happen.
The Earth, Moon & beyond! @OSIRISREx, our mission that is currently on its way to map & return samples from asteroid Bennu, captured the data that makes up this composite image of our home planet & Moon: https://t.co/QZOmwVTIRe pic.twitter.com/HmwLJk12Gb— NASA (@NASA) January 2, 2018
Vodafone's move may seem a little preemptive, but there's logic behind this madness. While there are no people living on the Moon at the moment, the ongoing commercial space race is seeing a lot of companies making efforts to try and get up into space in order to mine resources, offer tourist packages, or provide better tools for exploring the universe.
A startup has already begun making plans to provide the Moon with cell tower reception in anticipation of a future commercial moon base, and it seems that Vodafone's plan is to try and get on this bandwagon as soon as possible. The expectation here is that once companies do start traveling regularly to the Moon, the communications infrastructure will be needed instantly, and Vodafone is hoping to have a leg up on the competition.
Of course, this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy - the Moon will have commercial visitors if Vodafone is sending missions to install cell towers, which will naturally lead to other companies trying to take advantage of the busy activity on the moon's surface. Perhaps someone will eventually open a lunar Starbucks (Moonbucks?).
The real question that needs to be asked is whether or not all of this activity will actually yield results. If missions to the Moon can't be made cost effective, then nobody's going to want to use Vodafone's cell towers anyway. As exciting as the commercial space race is at present, it all depends on companies actually finding a way to turn a profit from sending rockets into space.
Regardless, we're eventually going to get to a point where it's easier to get solid cell phone reception on the Moon than in slightly rural parts of the developed world. For anyone who's ever seen a "No Signal" message while visiting their in-laws, this is going to feel like the greatest injustice in the history of humanity.