Can GPS Work on the Moon?

Caitlin Dempsey


Many of us use the GPS capabilities on our smartphones on a daily basis. The quick access to directions, geolocating our photos, and location-based apps all work thanks to the constellation of global navigation satellites that orbit the Earth.

With  NASA’s Project Artemis planned for a lunar expedition in 2024, astronauts will need navigation technology as they carry out a planned exploration of the moon’s surface.

Scientists at NASA wanted to learn if global positioning systems could be used on the moon.

So, would GPS work at the moon? Researchers Kar-Ming Cheung and Charles Lee from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory say, “Yes.”

Can GPS work on the moon?  Some researchers believe so.
Can GPS work on the moon? Some researchers believe so.

Cheung and Lee presented their findings at the recent IEEE Aerospace Conference and concluded that existing global navigation satellites could be used by astronauts on the moon. Chueng and Lee analyzed satellite signal strength from three systems: the United State’s Global Positioning System, Europe’s Galileo, and Russia’s GLONASS.

They found that while the signals from the 81 navigation satellites they analyzed are directed towards Earth, these satellite signals also radiate into space and are strong enough to reach the moon’s orbit some 385,000 km away.

A spacecraft at any given point in time would be able to have line-of-sight to between 5-13 satellite signals, providing a spatial accuracy of 200-300 meters. That navigational accuracy on the moon could be improved through additional methodologies.


Potter, N. (2020, March 17). an Astronauts Use GPS to Navigate on the Moon? NASA Scientists Say Yes. IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News.

NASA eyes GPS at the moon for Artemis missions. (2019, June 14). NASA.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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