- German space firm PT Scientists, along with Finnish network equipment-maker Nokia and U.K. mobile carrier Vodafone, are gearing up to launch a telecoms network on the moon in 2019.
- Two Audi rovers and a base station for 4G mobile internet will be taken to the moon by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
- The rovers would explore the landing site of NASA's Apollo 17 mission when humans last set foot on the moon in 1972, and send back images over the mobile network.
When people start taking a vacation to the moon, there might be a mobile network to let them post their pictures on social media.
It would mark the first private space mission to the moon, if successful. The group of companies is aiming to send Audi lunar quattro rovers to the landing site of NASA's Apollo 17 mission — when man last set foot on the moon in 1972.
A so-called base station that will be the basis of the mobile network will be launched as well. It will allow the rovers to connect to the 4G mobile network and live-stream images back to Earth.
The rovers will explore the Apollo 17 site, but the spacecraft will land about three to five kilometers away, so a mobile signal is needed.
Past missions by NASA have allowed rovers to transmit images back to Earth, but not in a continuous stream. Instead, they explore, gather images and video, stop, then send them to Earth.
But that is inefficient, said Robert Bohme, the CEO of PT Scientists.
"First of all, the bandwidth is really, really low, it takes really a lot of energy... you don't have enough energy," Bohme told CNBC in an interview earlier this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The CEO explained that it would drain the battery of the rovers very quickly.
"With LTE, you have a technology which transmits data over just a couple of watts of energy over multi megabits over very great distance," Bohme said. LTE is a standard of 4G mobile internet.
PT Scientists is aiming to launch the mission with a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk's space exploration company SpaceX in the first quarter of 2019, according to Bohme.
The rovers will be operational for about 11 Earth days. At night on the moon, temperatures plummet to about minus 180 degrees Celsius.
The aim of setting up a mobile network is to have infrastructure in place for future missions. Musk has previously said there needs to be a base on the moon. The PT Scientists mission could help achieve that.
"If Elon Musk really wants to send humans to the moon... if he sends them to Apollo 17, these guys can probably check in on Facebook using the Vodafone network," Bohme said.