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Want to protect your data? Send it to the moon.

A company called TransOrbital of La Jolla, Calif., is seriously considering the idea of putting storage facilities on Earth's only natural satellite, says a report in PC Magazine. The company is preparing for a commercial trip to the moon, taking handheld computers, digital cameras, servers, and data along for the ride.

"We're the only company licensed to send a commercial mission right now," TransOrbital CEO Dennis Laurie told PC Magazine. "We're shooting for the first quarter of 2004."

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On Dec. 20 last year, the company tested telemetry, positioning and other concerns in preparation for the upcoming mission by launching a rocket. The U.S. State Department and the military granted TransOrbital a licence, and NASA is also talking to company representatives.

But is it a good idea to store data on the moon?

TransOrbital says companies want to back up critical data somewhere other than on earth, and is working on ways to sell the idea.

"We're trying to develop some wider bandwidth laser communications going beyond the communication protocols developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that exist for use in space," Mr. Laurie said. "It is feasible to have electronic data on the moon, and to receive it from earth, although delays are implied."

TransOrbital is also sending Hewlett-Packard iPaq handheld computers and digital cameras into space. The iPaq's wireless features will be tested in lunar orbit to communicate with downlink protocols. The company also hopes to tether digital cameras outside the satellite to photograph it in conjunction with background shots of the earth and the moon.

"The moon is a pretty safe place to store your data," said Mr. Laurie. "Sept. 11 caused people to think about what data backup really means, and there is also always the threat of a natural disaster here on earth, such as a small asteroid hitting the planet."

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