Moon: Delhi-born Nishant Batra sets up the first 4G network on the Moon for NASA

NEW DELHI: If the records are up, this one is surely special as it culminates in the establishment of the first 4G network on the moon and the establishment of the first extraterrestrial cellular mobility which may one day be extended further to connect future robot and human missions in space, and even to Mars. And it’s an Indian – born in New Delhi into a middle-class business family – who is leading the effort to pull off the feat that will provide mobile connectivity to NASA’s ambitious Artemis moon landing program.
Nishant Batra, based in Espoo (Finland), is the global head of strategy and technology at Nokia, which is worth 22 billion euros, with responsibility for also leading technology architecture and research at Bell Labs, which has to his credit nine Nobel Prizes and five Turing Prizes.
Batra, born in 1978, holds an MBA from INSEAD business school and earned his bachelor’s degree in computer applications from Devi Ahilya University in Indore. He then earned a master’s degree in telecommunications and a master’s degree in computer science from Southern Methodist University in the United States.
Ask him about the lunar connectivity project – awarded by NASA to Nokia in October 2020 – and Batra begins to deconstruct challenges and opportunities. But first: can you make a regular call from the moon once the 4G network is up or can you watch movies and videos from streaming players? “If you’re running a 4G network on the moon, that device will work there. And then if somebody’s carrying that device, they can make a call back home as long as it’s legally allowed. I’m not sure that will be legally allowed for a very long time. These (networks) are very safe for the system, highly secure (and) not for public use,” Batra told TOI.
NASA, which envisions a human landing on the moon by 2024 as a follow-up to the historic 1969 moon landing mission led by Neil Armstrong, wants to use the network established by Nokia to help provide critical communications capabilities for astronaut tasks. will have to perform, such as remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and high-definition video streaming.
“With the Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars,” the US space agency said when discussing the mission in September 2020.
The idea of ​​a cellular network is an integral part of the Artemis plan which envisions conducting long-term work in space and performing tasks that support life away from Earth.
Batra – whose teams are also engaged in cutting-edge research into 6G technologies – says the lunar network could be a reality within this very year. “The goal is to achieve this in the coming months… (But) since this is a NASA project, I cannot give you the exact launch date. But it’s a matter of months, not years.
Regarding the complexity of the project, Batra says: “The big difference is that we are not using any personalized communication links in this project. Now we use standard operating technology to communicate in cis-lunar environments. Indeed, we are not building new technology to link to the moon.
The ease of a regular network opens up a myriad of possibilities. “If we talk about a technological leap, we could operate cellular technologies in space in the future, beyond what is possible today. “So, does the terrain make it more difficult? “The base station must survive the lunar environment. It must be hardened. For a base station, if the temperature is below minus 60 degrees, it fades. So you have to stabilize the temperature, to make it survive in an environment like that. . . Similarly, moisture constraints must be addressed. Humidity should be maintained at the required level; at the same time, we also need to protect the equipment from rust.
As for the materials, Batra says that while the standard electronics are the same as those used on land, the construction of the base station is different. “You don’t need to mount the base station on the tower…there is no obstruction or interference.”
And while the lunar mission is the immediate challenge, Batra teams are also working on new era technologies, including those related to 6G and the immersive and highly responsive virtual digital world, commonly referred to as Metaverse.
Batra says India, and India’s engineering and IT talents, are among the best in the world and will play a key role in developing future technologies. “India is currently doing well in terms of applied innovation, which is focused on how to release the next product, how to release the next software, how to release the next service. It would be a dream come true for me if I I could have more Bell Labs-type work in India, focused on fundamental innovation, not applied innovation.” He said that Nokia and Bell Labs would hire more in India.


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