Researchers at the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd are planning to send a sub-£300 Android handset out into the final frontier.

A satellite containing the as yet unknown smartphone will be launched into orbit around the Earth later this year, in a project known as STRaND-1.

The researchers want to find out if the tiny, cheap yet technologically advanced components in smartphones can withstand the extreme changes in temperature, gravity, and atmosphere, with a view to incorporating them into regular satellites.

Satellite apps

Lead researcher Dr Chris Bridges explained: "Smartphones pack lots of components – such as sensors, video cameras, GPS systems and Wi-Fi radios – that are technologically advanced but a fraction of the size, weight and cost of components used in existing satellite systems."

"And because many smartphones also run on free operating systems that lend themselves to online software developers, the creators of applications ('apps') for smartphones could feasibly develop apps for satellites," he added.

"If a smartphone can be proved to work in space, it opens up lots of new technologies to a multitude of people and companies for space who usually can't afford it. It's a real game-changer for the industry."

And, presumably, for Android-owning astronauts.

It won't phone home

Putting ET's homemade Speak-n-Spell phone somewhat to shame, the handset will send images and messages back to earth via a radio system, and will even be used to operate parts of the satellite.

No doubt even Spielberg would have struggled to string ET borrowing Elliot's smartphone to text his family out into a full-length feature film.