Moon boon: Nokia, Vodafone want to build lunar 4G LTE network

The network is meant to support scientists whose rovers need to communicate and transfer data on the first privately funded moon landing, set for next year.

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The network is aimed at supporting a mission on the moon by PTScientists in 2019. 

Dylan O'Donnell

Usually when tech companies talk about "moonshots," they're being figurative. 

But Vodafone Tuesday said it has picked Nokia as its partner to put a 4G mobile-data network on the moon. 

The network, which would be the first on the moon, is meant to support a mission by Berlin-based company PTScientists in 2019. PTScientists is working with Vodafone Germany and Audi on a privately funded moon landing, due to launch in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The network would connect two Audi lunar quattro rovers to a base station, so they can communicate and transfer scientific data and HD video. Nokia, through Nokia Bell Labs, will create a space-grade "Ultra Compact Network," which the companies say will weigh about as much as a bag of sugar.

The rovers will be studying NASA's Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used in 1972 by the last astronauts to walk on the moon.

"In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet," Robert Bohme, CEO and founder of PTScientists, said in a release. "The great thing about this LTE solution is that it saves so much power, and the less energy we use sending data, the more we have to do science!"