NASA is studying how to build a Wi-Fi network on the moon in the hopes it could also solve Earth's digital divide

NASA has released a new study that explores the possibility to build a Wi Fi network on the moon.
Insider was told by NASA's Steve Oleson that it compared the lunar surface to an area around Cleveland.

This framework, although conceptual at the moment, will also be used to inform NASA's Artemis program.

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NASA has revealed a new study that examines the possibility of building an internet network on the moon, according to the agency.

This is done in an effort address the lack of internet access in certain areas of the US, and to inform future Artemis missions.

Mary Lobo, NASA's Glenn Research Center director of technology innovation and incubation, stated in a press release that "This provided a great opportunity for us to develop solutions to the problems we face sending astronauts on the Moon under Artemis, while also addressing an increasing societal problem in our community."

Artemis, the program that was revealed last year, aims at landing people on the Moon for the first time since 1972. It plans to launch an uncrewed mission on the moon in 2021. The crewed lunar flyby will take place in 2023. Finally, it will attempt a lunar landing in 2024.

NASA's Compass Lab conducted the study. Insider learned that "crew, crew, rovers and science instruments, as well as mining equipment, will require reliable communication links to a lunar/Artemis basiscamp and eventually back to Earth" Steve Oleson, NASA Glenn Compass Lab leader, said about the study.

NASA stated in a press release that digital inequality, and lack of adequate internet service, is a major socioeconomic concern in the US. This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance shows that 31% of Cleveland's households don't have broadband access.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership, an economic development organisation, approached NASA's Glenn Research Center in order to study the technical barriers to digital inequality and determine if the moon could be used to close the digital divide on Earth.

Oleson shared with Insider that the Compass team from NASA's Glenn Research Center examined how a terrestrial network could work in a Cleveland neighborhood to assess its potential impact on the moon.

The study was done to determine the technical difficulties associated with Wi-Fi connectivity within the local area. It involved comparing a lunar surface with an area surrounding Cleveland. Oleson explained to Insider that although the equipment might be different because of the lunar and Earth environments, Wi-Fi frequencies could still be the same on Earth.

According to Oleson, engineers discovered that connecting Wi-Fi routers on approximately 20,000 Cleveland lampposts and other utility poles could provide internet access for every household in any neighborhood.

A four-person house could get 7.5 megabits per sec download speed by placing routers within 100 yards of each other. This service would provide basic internet access for users to bank, shop, school, and other internet-related activities. Oleson said that streaming 4K video and gaming would require additional bandwidth.

Oleson stated that the results of the study would be provided to NASA mission planners in the future Artemis missions as well as possible basecamp designs.

He said, "We are also sharing these with NASA technologists who must adapt Wi-Fi equipment for extreme lunar environments including dust and extreme temperature."

NASA's Wi-Fi Study is still in its conceptual stage. However, it will help provide reliable internet access to underserved communities in the US.