Package For Space Travellers: 4G & Water On Moon

Package For Space Travellers: 4G & Water On Moon

In 2018, there were reports of a large saltwater lake found at Mars’ south pole. Now planetary researchers have confirmed its presence, along with 3 more sub-surface water bodies. Even SOFIA has detected water on moon. Meanwhile Nokia’s (NOK) Bell Labs has signed a deal with NASA to set up a 4G network on the moon. Is it time to go to space for your next vacation?

Crux of the Matter

Water Discovered On Moon
Using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), water has been found on the sunlit surface of the Moon, in Clavius Crater. This indicates that water molecules may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to the cold, shadowed places only.

Nokia and NASA
NASA has awarded Nokia’s Bell Labs, a grant of $14.1 million to deploy a 4G cellular network on the moon, in order to support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds and more reliability than current standards. Nokia plans to partner with spaceflight company, Intuitive Machines for the entire 4G network layout.

NASA’s “Tipping Point” Project
NASA has a 2028 goal to build a moon base and sustain a human presence later on. So it has already dedicated $370 million to lunar innovations including remote power generation, cryogenic freezing, safer landing etc. 4G setup and eventually 5G, is a part of this grant.

Will Moon Have Better Network Than Earth?
Yes, 4G has the potential to work better on the moon due to the absence of trees, buildings, or TV signals, that interfere with the cellular network here. It will be designed to withstand extreme temperature, radiation, and space’s vacuum while staying functional during lunar landings and launches, even with significant vibrations.

So Can Astronauts Tweet Their Lunar Rover Selfies?
Yes, Nokia says astronauts can use its wireless network for controlling moon rovers, real-time navigation over lunar geography, and streaming high-definition videos from space.

Lakes Discovered On Mars
The discovery published by Nature Astronomy was made using radar data from the ESA (European Space Agency)’s Mars-orbiting spacecraft, Mars Express. It followed the detection of a single subsurface lake in the same region in 2018, by using a data set comprising 134 observations from 2012 to 2019.

The Eureka Moment For MARSIS
A radar instrument called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) was being used to probe the planet’s southern polar region when it found bodies of liquid water trapped under more than 1km of Martian ice.

How Does MARSIS Work?
The instrument sends out radio waves, which bounce off layers of material in the planet’s subsurface and surface area. The way this signal is reflected back indicates the type of material that is present at a particular location, like say rock, ice, or water, for example. MARSIS works similar to the glacial lake detection method used on Earth.

What Do We Know About The 4 Lakes?
The lakes are spread out over 75,000 sqkm, an area which is roughly 1/5th the size of Germany. The largest, central lake is 30km wide and is surrounded by 3 smaller lakes, each a few km in size. However, it is yet to be confirmed, whether they are made of water or sludge. The Chinese mission, Tianwen-1 can verify these claims, on the way to Mars, after it launches in February 2021.

  • Apollo 17 was the last manned moon landing that took place in 1972. No manned moon landing has taken place ever since.
  • After the failed soft landing of Chandrayaan 2, ISRO is planning to launch a similar Chandrayaan 3 mission in the second quarter of 2021. It will only include a lander and a rover.
  • Ganymede, Jupiter’s moon, is the largest moon in the Solar System. It is bigger than Mercury.
  • Due to Moon’s weaker gravity than Earth, a Person would weigh about one-sixth (16.5%) of its weight on Earth.
  • Project A119 was a top-secret plan by the United States to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon. Americans were falling behind the space race and this was planned to show the force of the United States and boost the morale of American Scientists.

Up And Above To Mars: History And Future

Up And Above To Mars: History And Future

UAE’s United Arab Emirates Space Agency, USA’s NASA and China’s CNSA are planning to launch back to back missions to Mars this month. With Elon Musk sticking to his ambitions of SpaceX sending human flights the red planet, what’s in it for us space enthusiasts?

Crux of the Matter

July, The Month Of Mars?
Three missions are planned to reach the red planet, Mars this month, the last one being NASA’s car-sized Perseverance rover, which will hunt for signs of life after its launch on July 30, 2020.

Meet NASA’s Perseverance!

The United Arab Emirates’ first-ever interplanetary effort, the Hope Mars mission, also called the Emirates Mars Mission is scheduled to launch on July 14 and reach the destination in early 2021.

Meet UAE Space Agency’s Hope!

Finally, on July 23, China’s first-ever fully homegrown mission – Tianwen-1, is scheduled to take off. The authorities remain reticent about the landing date and the exact mission.

Meet China Space Agency’s Tianwen-1!

Combined Plan Of Action?
The United States and Europe plan to bring the mysterious red planet’s material to Earth for further studies, in a space campaign planned by NASA and ESA in the year 2031. Scientists and astro-enthusiasts around the world will then scrutinize the material in-depth, looking for signs of life and clues about the red planet’s evolutionary history.

What Is Mangalyaan Up To?
Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) recently captured an alluring image of Mars’ biggest moon, Phobos.

Initially meant to last six months when it was launched on November 5, 2013, the mission got extended as authorities suggested it had fuel to make the rover last for “many years.”

ISRO’s brainchild Mangalyaan or MOM

Since then, it has been meticulously studying the planet’s surface and mineral composition by scanning the atmosphere for methane, which could be an indicator of Martian life.

What’s The Hurry?
All three nations – US, UAE, and China – have their own agenda in this common goal:

NASA’s primary dream since its inception has been to explore space. Subsequently, it has been sending robot probes to the red planet since the Mariner 4 in the mid-1960s. Unraveling its mystery would be a historical event of this century, surpassing its legendary Apollo moon landing.

China is planning such expeditions with an ambition of establishing its very own crewed space station. This would enhance its stature as a major space power.

The UAE is well aware that its oil and gas availability is losing its old appeal. This it has embarked on a national mission to create a high-tech economy, that would include an advanced space mission to Mars.

Successful Mars Exploration Missions From The Past

  • Mars Global Surveyor (1996 – 1997)
  • Spirit Rover (2003 – 2004)
  • Opportunity Rover (2003 – 2004)
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005 – 2006)
  • Phoenix (2007 – 2008)
  • Curiosity (2012 – until now)
  • NASA’s Viking project (first mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of another planet, 1975-1976)
Snapshot of ice on Mars, taken by Viking Lander 2, Source: Twitter

What Does The Future Hold For U?
With the success of Elon Musk‘s spaceflight company SpaceX’s first manned mission, Crew Dragon Demo-2, earlier this year, there would be full focus on the development on the ambitious Starship project.

Heavy-lift launch vehicle, SpaceX Starship

Set to be a next-generation spacecraft, the 50m tall, reusable beast was unveiled last year and is designed to carry a crew and cargo “to the moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system”, as per Musk. The tech billionaire is also open about his ambitious vision of building a colony on the red planet in this lifetime, with the first rocket propelling humans to the Red Planet by 2025.

How an artist imagines life to be at Mars, Source:Inverse
  • Asaph Hall III was an American astronomer who is most famous for having discovered the moons of Mars in 1877. The two moons are Deimos and Phobos, which are named after twin brothers in greek mythology which personify terror and fear respectively.
  • Mars One was a small private Dutch organization that received money from investors by claiming it would use it to land the first humans on Mars and leave them there to establish a permanent human colony. From its announcement in 2012 to its bankruptcy in early 2019, it is estimated to have received tens of millions of dollars.
  • A Princess of Mars is a science fantasy novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of his Barsoom series. The story is set on Mars, imagined as a dying planet with a harsh desert environment. This vision of Mars was based on the work of the astronomer Percival Lowell, whose ideas were widely popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Percival Lawrence Lowell was an American businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer who fueled speculation that there were canals on Mars. He founded the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and formed the beginning of the effort that led to the discovery of Pluto 14 years after his death.

NASA Helicopter Ingenuity To Explore Mars

NASA Helicopter Ingenuity To Explore Mars

NASA is all set to fly a drone-like helicopter in the atmosphere of the red planet. The craft named Ingenuity, will hitch a ride to Mars aboard the Perseverance lander, making it the first experimental flight on another planet.

Crux of the Matter

Ingenuity – The Mars Helicopter
The Ingenuity craft is a wheeled, robotic rover that has a mission to drive across the planet’s rugged surface. It will launch from Earth this summer, with the touchdown scheduled for 18 February 2021 on Mars. The craft is 50 cm high with four blades, mounted on twin, counter-rotating rotors covering 1.2 m. The size of the rotors was needed to be huge enough to fly in Mars’s thin atmosphere.

How Good A Photographer Is Ingenuity
Ingenuity carries a black-and-white navigation camera and images are beamed by short-range radio links to Perseverance, which then relays them to one of the  NASA spacecrafts in Mars orbit. Subsequently, they are transmitted back to Earth. Dr. Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) says multiple images can then be stitched into a panorama using ground software tools.

The helicopter attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, will be deployed onto the Martian surface. Source: JPL

What Is The Mission
The rover’s mission is astrobiological i.e it will search for signs of past microbial life. It will then characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future passage back to Earth.

The helicopter’s main focus would be to return engineering data from the test flights that will provide valuable feedback to refine future designs and pave way for further human exploration of Mars. The primary plan is for it to complete five flights over a period of 30 days for now.

Part Of The Bigger Picture?
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

This is just the beginning. Source: NASA
  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge. The laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft and has managed all four successful robotically operated Mars rovers.
  • Mars Cube One (or MarCO) was a Mars flyby mission that consisted of two nano spacecraft, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, that provided a real-time communications link to Earth. The two spacecraft were nicknamed by JPL engineers as WALL-E and EVE in reference to the main characters in the animated film WALL-E.
  • The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film starring Matt Damon. The film depicts an astronaut’s lone struggle to survive on Mars after being left behind, and efforts to rescue him and bring him home to Earth.

NASA raises white flag to SpaceX in the race to Mars


In an interview with Polish publication WP Magazyn, NASA’s Dr. Robert Zubrin admitted that the Elon Musk-led space company SpaceX will reach Mars before NASA. Musk is reportedly planning to launch his mission to establish an outpost on the red planet by 2023 and subsequently send humans in times ahead.

Crux of the Matter

NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover Scheme
As per NASA’s official statement, the Mars 2020 rover is based on its predecessor ‘Curiosity‘ which was launched in 2011. The car-sized rover is about 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall while weighing 1,050 kgs. The mission is expected to last for about 687 Earth days, equivalent to one Mars year. The rover is expected to land on February 18, 2021, at Jezero Crater, Mars. The official launch window ranges from July 17 to August 5, 2020, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

SpaceX’s Mars Game Plan
Elon Musk’s brainchild had stated its aspiration to send its first cargo mission to Mars in 2022. SpaceX’s first mission aircraft ‘Starship‘ is targetted at confirming resources, identifying hazards and placing initial power, mining & life support infrastructure. Its next mission will carry both cargo and crew and is scheduled for 2024. This second mission is aimed at building a propellant depot for future crew flights. Musk hopes to evolve this foundation of the first Mars Base into a self-sustaining civilization.

Clash of NASA-Musk
In a short series of back and forth tweets, Musk had reportedly blamed NASA’s bureaucracy for not yet returning astronauts to the moon. He talked about the progress of mankind from the train to the rocket, expressing his disappointment at not being able to return to the moon after its first flight 50 years ago. This feud comes amidst the US Congress proposing a new space bill. This promises to make NASA push back its moon landing mission to 2028 instead of 2024, and shift back it’s focus to the Mars one.


Exploration of Mars – The planet Mars has been explored remotely by spacecraft. Probes sent from Earth, beginning in the late 20th century, have yielded a large increase in knowledge about the Martian system, focused primarily on understanding its geology and habitability potential. Engineering interplanetary journeys are complicated and the exploration of Mars has experienced a high failure rate, especially the early attempts. Roughly sixty percent of all spacecraft destined for Mars failed before completing their missions and some failed before their observations could begin.

Some missions have met with unexpected success, such as the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, which operated for years beyond their specification. On June 10, 2018, Opportunity rover fell silent, leaving Curiosity of the Mars Science Laboratory mission with six orbiters surveying the planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, MAVEN, and the Trace Gas Orbiter, which have contributed massive amounts of information about Mars. More Info