Monday, February 25, 2008

NASA & BNSC collaborate planning for Lunar Cellular Network

With a horizon only two miles away, the notion of a lunar surface with sufficient cellphone towers to prevent the frustrating "dead zones" experienced on Earth, as tall needed or tall as necessary and could be built in low gravity, brings to mind Doug Bradley in full "Pin Head" make-up and ready as always to "play."

Nevertheless, as attention naturally continues to focus on the Nearside rim of the massive and ancient Aiken Basin, which has within it's wide realm much of the southern Farside, the Lunar South Pole while peaking out into sight from Earth, for a primary permanent habitat on the Moon, NASA and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) are already planning a cellular phone network.

Most attention is clearly on the complexities of a stable constellation of satellites in "Goldilocks" orbits, neither too high or low and in orbits as unaffected by lunar MassCons and the Moon's inherent lack of mass homogenaity; flying cell towers, beginning with two and with testing using an underground relay beginning as soon as 2012.

There will be towers, to be sure, here and there - perhaps on Malapert, for example.

Malapert has the distinction of being high-ground situated close to the South Pole but never quite slipping out of line-of-sight from Earth with the Moon's libration. On Malapert the sunset is seasonal but Earthset never quite happens. Instead Earth rises less than 10 degrees up and falls to kiss the horizon, sometimes dipping low enough that only Earth's southern hemisphere remains visible, while the rest of the Universe wheels about with the Sun.

Malapert does not qualify as a "mountain of perpetual sunlight," as is may exist nearer to both poles, but as an Earth observation post, with proximity to the South Pole only some 50 kilometers and 180 degrees south of an observer, it is particularly well-situated for a microwave wireless power distribution node and to relay communications between Earth, the Lunar South Pole and for Farside satellite and optical fiber head-ins. The mountain also appears to be a good location for nesting underground or in close-by permanent shade from X-Class Massive Coronal Eruptions.

In fact, as NASA and others, including myself, have long-noted Malapert seems to be one of many ideal and even strategic locations on the Moon for a lot of Human activity.

But NASA working with BNSC envisions most Lunar cellular phone and realtime data traffic around the Moon handled a small swarm of satellites much like the GPS systems dancing around Earth. It also may resemble the high ground swarms flown for satellite phone traffic on Earth, and both LPS and cell exchange may eventually ride together.

Traffic for such a proposed cellular system might be light at first, but it may well be absolutely critical, also. Whether planners can overcome problems with Lunar perturbations and its possible effect on orbital timing for predictable hand-overs, both Lunar-centric Positioning Systems for orbital traffic control, navigation and mapping and for local communications more reliable than what consumers often have on Earth today may be needed sooner than most of our fellow "ground-pounders" can yet imagine.

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