In November, NASA's Artemis 1 mission successfully flew around the moon, showing the world that humans are on their way back.

The European Space Agency and NASA want to establish a permanent base on the moon by the year 2025. China and Russia are working together to establish a lunar base.

There is no way to find out where we are. In deep space, astronauts can't navigate on their own, and every mission requires trained engineers to direct the flights from the ground.

It will become unsustainable with missions moving back and forth.

Satellite navigation is being put on rockets that will travel 239,000 miles between Earth and the moon. A new navigation network around the moon is also being planned. This is how.

How space agencies navigate today is cumbersome and expensive

Apollo 11 Staff Sees Liftoff in the Launch Control Center
It took hundreds of people to help Apollo mission rockets navigate to the moon. Here Apollo 11 staff are watching it lift off on July 16, 1969.

It is the only way to get from point A to point B in space today.

The only point of reference for the spaceship is the Earth. There are massive blind spots when it comes to pinging a signal back to the Earth.

When the Artemis 1 mission went behind the moon, NASA completely lost contact with the craft. For a few minutes, all the engineers were able to do was hold their breath and hope that the spaceship wouldn't break apart.

Javier Ventura-Traveset is the chief engineer of the Galileo navigation science office of the European Space Agency. Galileo is the European version of the global positioning system.

A way to triangulate their position from space is what space exploration needs now.

Using Earth's satellites to go to the moon could help

The cheapest way to bring satnav to space is to use the satellites around the Earth.

There are a number of issues with this approach. Satellites point towards the Earth.

Most of the satellites signal is blocked and a small amount spills over. The bit that spills over is not as strong as the main signal.

An infographic shows how the Earth block a lot of the main signal from the GNSS signals.
Beyond the Earth's immediate perimeter, called here the space service volume, the earth blocks a lot of the signal coming from earth's navigation satellites (here called GNSS satellites, for Global Navigation Satellite System).

It would seem impossible to use this signal to navigate to the moon. Engineers have been developing sensitive detectors for decades.

They succeeded.

Four satellites were able to determine their position using signals from the Earth'sGPS satellites.

It was about halfway to the moon.

We really need a way to go all the way to the moon autonomously

On the other half of the journey, that signal will be detected. Ventura- Traveset is positive.

NASA and the European Space Agency are preparing to test their detectors on future moon missions.

A schematic shows the first stage of ESA's Moonlight initiative
As part of ESA's initiative, a detector will be mounted on a satellite orbiting the moon, called Lunar Pathfinder, to see if it can navigate autonomously.
ESA-K Oldenburg/Insider

In the year 2075 or in the year 2086, the ESA's receiver is due to be launched. The position of the satellite should be determined with a precision of about 60 meters.

The hope is that the satellite will be able to navigate itself around the moon. It's lightweight and can replace a lot of heavier equipment on a spaceship.

A picture shows the receiver component of ESA's Navimoon.
The NaviMoon satnav receiver being tested.

The Italian Space Agency collaborated with NASA on the development of detectors. The first of these receptors will be launched to the surface of the moon in 24 years.

James Joseph "JJ" Miller, deputy director for Policy and Strategic Communications within the Space Communications and navigation Program at NASA Headquarters, told Insider that there is a "friendly competitive race" between NASA and the European Space Agency.

Many countries are interested in investing in deep-space navigation technology.

"Everyone has come to understand that this is an emerging user that is not going away, that we have to prepare and make the cis-lunar space, all the space between the Earth and the moon, as robust and reliable as possible with these signals."

Eventually, we'll need a satellite navigation network around the moon

An infographic shows how the Moonlight initiative of ESA would work
In the second phase of ESA's Moonlight, a network of satellites should help triangulate the position of spacecrafts at the surface.
ESA-K Oldenburg/Insider

The signal from Earth's satellites won't be very useful once they reach the moon.

The dark side of the moon and moon poles can't be seen from the Earth at that point.

The plan is to give the moon its own fleet of satellites. NASA's satellite would be the first one in the game.

The basic infrastructure of Moonlight will be tested by 2027, and a more complete infrastructure by 2030.

The LunaNet network is being built by NASA. The agency wants to send a space station to the moon.

NASA's Miller said that they would imagine a kind of architecture that included both NASA and the European Space Agency.

Moon settlers will need high-speed internet

An illustration shows a satellite and the Earth reflecting on the visor or a future moon astronaut.
Satellites could help future moon astronauts navigate on the moon, as can be seen in this artist's impression.

Humans are going to return to the moon. It would take a long time for moon settlers to set up camp so they can mine for minerals and water.

Ventura-Traveset said that moon visitors will need to communicate with Earth and be entertained.

In the future, moon settlers could have access to high-speed internet, video-conference with loved ones on Earth, stream shows, and create their own content from space.

Ventura- Traveset doesn't think anyone would argue that that's not the way we're going to go.