On December 14, 1972 at 5:55pm ET, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface in the ascent stage of their Lunar Module. They were the last people to set foot on the moon. However, NASA plans to return to the moon within the decade.
The Artemis Plan includes putting a woman on the moon (NASA)
NASA's Artemis program is intended to establish a sustainable lunar base by 2028 that could serve as a stepping stone to Mars. The plan calls for the Space Launch System rocket to be paired with an Orion spacecraft. An unmanned test flight called Artemis I is scheduled for 2021. Artemis II is scheduled to be a manned flight to fully test Orion's navigational abilities in 2023. Artemis III will lay the groundwork for lunar missions and extended surface exploration with the delivery supplies and scientific equipment to the lunar surface in 2024.
In order to facilitate sustained operations, the planned lunar base will feature an extensive infrastructure. Consider the evolution of Bagram from tent city on a dirt field in 2001 to the mega facility with Subway, Pizza Hut, and Green Beans that it is today. While we probably won't see those establishments on the moon for quite some time, the luxury that most troops today consider to be the most important will be coming to the moon—cell service.
Putting a Pizza Hut on the moon should be a metric of success (U.S. Army)
NASA has made over $370 million in contract deals with several companies to support the planned lunar base. One of these companies is Nokia. The Finnish phone company will be building a 4G LTE network on the moon by late 2022. In addition to voice communication and data transmission, the mobile network could be used to power lunar navigation, stream the biometric data of astronauts, and wirelessly control robots and sensors on the moon.
Nokia plans to build the network using mostly off-the-shelf commercial technology like lightweight 4G base stations. According to Nokia, the lunar network will be "ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE." The network will also be upgraded to 5G over time.
The prospect of a sustainable lunar base is an exciting one as NASA sets its sights on the moon and beyond. The promise of being able to binge-watch your favorite shows on the moon is arguably even more exciting to some people. Let's just hope that the cell service is better and more reliable than some of the FOB Wi-Fi networks down range.