I know this is a weird question. I can't find a radiation hardened microcontroller (μC) that does Bluetooth Low Energy or even WiFi. Is there any reason this would not work on Mars, if a radiation hardened μC pops up?

I realize there is good chance no one would take me seriously, but a Mars settlement with local WiFi, talking through a gateway to devices scattered outside. The devices would measure things like temperature or methane concentration. The idea is they could be scattered outside and form a network of sorts.


2 Answers 2


Sure, as we have seen from the other answer and from documents like this, we can see that not only are wireless devices in high-radiation environments feasible, but they offer quite a long list of benefits.

If you really think about it, you will realize that any device humans have sent into space whether the device is an orbiter, satellite, rover, etc, they are all equipped with an antenna and an RF transceiver so they are capable of receiving and transmitting data. We already have our very own "IoT" consisting of these devices.

There is, however, an issue. IoT, or "Internet of Things" is a term that is commonly misused. An IoT device is a piece of embedded hardware that provides an interface to access its data over the internet. What you seem to be referring to is what is called a "mesh" network. This is a very important distinction to make.

There are many topologies and various technologies that can be used to create a mesh network. 802.11 (aka WiFi) is a good example, but there are other networks such as 802.15.4 (commonly known as Zigbee). In fact, the paper that I linked talks about using 802.11 devices in a mesh network on the surface of Mars in real-time while in orbit around Mars.

The distinction between a mesh network and "the internet" is very important here because the designers of the mesh network in the aforementioned paper are not required to make that network accessible by someone on the Earth's internet. Doing something like this on Earth would be fairly trivial, but from Mars it would be a completely different story.

The hardware necessary to make each device accessible from the Earth would be large, costly, and consume gobs of power. Also, consider the possibility for vulnerabilities in the code that runs on each device, you wouldn't want some miscreant to connect to it and cause some untold havoc.

Also, consider this: the latency from Mars to the Earth is bottlenecked by the speed of light. Depending on the distance between Mars and the Earth, you could be looking at a latency of 14 minutes (this is an average value, but you could see times between 4 and 22 minutes one-way, double that for round-trip time - both direct line of sight when Mars is not in solar conjunction with the Earth which is just about to happen this year, roughly between June 7 to June 21, 2015). This means that if you sat down and opened your laptop in the Mars settlement and tried connecting to google.com, it would take several minutes just to connect.

  • $\begingroup$ To me, the OP's question seemed more about the survivability and reliability of consumer-grade off-the-shelf WiFi and Bluetooth network-able components/products in the Martian environment for use in a Martian intranet, rather than the feasibility of extending the global internet over interplanetary distances. $\endgroup$
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 23:50

Commercial off the shelf radios have already been used on Mars, to connect a small rover to its lander. From this site about the Mars pathfinder mission :

The radios that are used in the Microrover telecommunications system were purchased from Motorola's Paging Products Division. Several components that were designed and used in these radios were made by a company named DataRadio. These are off-the-shelf commercial radio modem's (modulator+demodulator) that were modified to meet the communication needs of the Microrover mission.

So for local comms, not critical to life, you might just use regular wifi chips. The challenge will be the cold, not the radiation.


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