column nick greenizan

COLUMN: Shoot for the moon, and bring your phone

If we ever colonize the moon, the folks at SFU want us to have great cell service

Though it’s been the premise of many a science-fiction novel and campy 1970s television series, I have some bad news, folks.

We, the people of Earth, may never actually colonize the moon.

But if we ever do, boy are we gonna have some great cell service when we get there.

Earlier this month, Simon Fraser University issued a news release announcing that a team of researchers at the school “are hard at work to make LTE/4G and Wi-Fi communications systems on the moon a reality by 2022.”

To which I say: It’s about damn time.

The lack of quality Wi-Fi, after all, is all that’s kept me from booking that Airbnb on the edge of the Tycho crater.

I know we can’t go anywhere right now due to COVID-19 – and talking about any type of travel at a time like this is cruel irony – but when those travel restrictions are lifted and we are unshackled once again, I think I’m going to book something.

I wasn’t interested before – roaming charges are expensive, after all – but now? Beam me up.

Kidding aside, these researchers have their reasons for wanting to perfect such advanced technology – spoiler alert: it’s not so we can travel there (yet) or so astronauts can play Candy Crush at the International Space Station.

Boiled down, it’s actually pretty simple – they want “better communications infrastructure” for space travel, especially considering the Artemis Project, a U.S.-funded endeavour, aims to return humans to the moon by 2024.

Improved communication technology is never a bad thing of course, although I wonder how good it truly needs to be, considering mission-control has always been able to communicate with those we send into orbit – Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong weren’t launched into the solar system with a tin can and a really long string, after all.

But here we are, 50 years after “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” and we’re still trying to get the static out of the line.

And really, who I am – a guy who passed Physics 11 with a 52 per cent grade and probably couldn’t name the planets in the correct order from the sun – to argue?

But colour me a little surprised at these developments, because it was little more than a year ago that some countries began floating the idea of defunding space exploration, instead leaving such endeavours to private enterprise – to people like Elon Musk who, let’s face it, might already have a plan for Wi-Fi service in galaxies far, far away.

I say this all in jest, of course. These are smart people, doing important work.

It’s also worth pointing out that SFU isn’t above having a little fun with all this, either.

The first line of the news release tells us that much.

“Think getting good cellular service on Earth is hard? Try doing it on the moon or Mars,” it reads.

If you continue reading, there’s a quote – buried near the end, after the parts about “testing interoperability standards” and “5G-forward LTE solutions” – that suggests, perhaps, the true motive behind this space odyssey.

“These technologies will work in space the same exact same way you and I use them on Earth now,” says Stephen Braham, one of the project leads.

Hmm. Maybe these astronauts really do just want float around up there playing Angry Birds till 3 a.m., after all.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter for the Peace Arch News.

ColumnmoonSFUTechnology

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey chief constable says ‘comprehensive’ public engagement to be done this year

Norm Lipinski says Surrey Police Service has ‘good momentum’

Dyllan Petrin is charged related to an ongoing investigation in Surrey involving a kidnapping and assault that occurred in July, 2019. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Man arrested in connection to kidnapping, murder investigations: Surrey RCMP

Police say Dyllan Petrin was arrested in Vancouver

Surrey-raised forward Jujhar Khaira in action with Edmonton Oilers. (Photo: nhl.com)
Q&A: Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira credits parents for their hard work on his path to NHL

Port Kells-raised player talks about his journey to pro hockey with Edmonton Oilers

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
OUR VIEW: Surrey Police Service continues to draw from RCMP well

Again, it flies in the face of mayor’s election campaign pitch that Surrey needs a police force whose ranks live in this city

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read