ESA wants to bring GPS and Skype to the Moon

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The space agency is planning to launch a constellation of lunar navigation and telecommunication satellites.

The Moon could become a rather busy place in the not-too-distant future, with NASA’s Artemis 3 mission aiming to land astronauts on the lunar surface before the decade is out and various other space agencies and private companies eyeing up the Moon as a profitable destination as well.

To help make navigation and communication for these lunar explorers easier, the European Space Agency is planning to set up a new satellite constellation around the Moon.

Known as Moonlight, this GPS-like system will make lunar exploration cheaper and easier.

“Having a navigation and telecommunication network to relay what we learn on the moon back to Earth will be key for sustainability of future missions,” said ESA’s Elodie Viau.

“You can imagine astronomers setting up observatories on the far side of the moon. And as we have all now become accustomed to virtual meetings, who knows? We could be doing Skype on the Moon.”

To get the ball rolling, ESA has contracted two consortia to study the feasibility of such a system.

“The idea is that this could be one of the projects that we take to the council of ESA member states in 2022 and propose for implementation,” said ESA’s David Parker.

“If that was the way forward, the project could start full steam ahead at the beginning of 2023, to ensure its operations within four or five years.”


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