Solve digital inequalities thanks to the… Moon?

Solve digital inequalities thanks to the… Moon?

Digital inequalities or inadequate access to the internet are a socio-economic concern across the United States, and the pandemic has worsened the gap. In Cleveland, home of NASA's Glenn Research Center, a study by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance found that approximately 31% of the city's households lack broadband access.

Following the study, Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), an economic development organization, contacted NASA Glenn for assistance in examining the technical barriers of digital inequality in the way only a space agency can - using the Moon to solve a problem on the planet. Earth.

The study found that connecting Wi-Fi routers to around 20,000 street lights or other service poles would help solve Cleveland's connectivity problems. By spacing the routers no more than 100 meters apart, you would have a download speed of approximately 7.5 megabits per second (Mbps) in a four-person home.

“This connectivity is good enough to complete schoolwork, participating in virtual calls and other Internet-based activities, but it's not high enough to allow 4K streaming, ”said Steve Oleson, head of the Compass team at NASA Glenn. "If we move the routers a little closer, we will greatly improve the bandwidth."

Each router would provide connections to external and internal users within a radius of about 50 meters from its host pole. However, Wi-Fi repeaters would most likely be needed to help older, lower-performing devices connect indoors. Addressing this problem will have a lasting impact on the growth of the local economy for years to come and will be an important step towards creating a much more equitable and inclusive economy.

The lunar part of the study hypothesized a base camp at Malapert Massif, a large impact crater near the Moon's South Pole. This area meets NASA's requirements for sun exposure and communications in line with the Deep Space Network, and is a prime spot for in situ resource utilization.

Using the same approach in referring to the Moon, the team recommends mounting routers on multiple poles of about 7 meters. Unlike a single, large tower, this approach would provide astronauts in habitats with network stability while mobile explorers could roam between routers.

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