Okay, cost savings isn’t one of those reasons—there’s no question the costs would be huge. But the rewards of a data processing facility on the moon could also be huge.
For a while now, NASA analysts have worried that we’re facing an impending “Deep Space Network traffic jam,” as Wired put it. As we send more spaceships into space, there’s more data coming in from them. Which will overload the system.
From NASA’s A Vision for the Next Generation Deep Space Network report:
Over the next 30 years, deep space communication will have to accommodate orders-of-magnitude increases in data to and from spacecraft and at least a doubling of the number of supported spacecraft.
The present DSN architecture is not extensible to meet future needs in a reliable and cost-effective manner. NASA must develop a new strategy for deep space communications that meets the forthcoming dramatic increase in mission needs.
One possible solution? Build a supercomputer with data center on the moon. Crazy? Nope.
University of Southern California graduate student Ouliang Chang presented the idea at last week’s AIAA Space conference in Pasadena, California.
Chang’s plans, according to his PowerPoint presentation, include antennae arrays for communications, a supercomputer and data storage facility, as well as auxiliary systems including power, shielding and cooling.
Chang suggests putting the center on the far side of the moon, close to a polar region and in the depths of a lunar crater that has constant shadow and possibly water or ice present.
It would be a massive undertaking, for certain. And a costly one. Chang estimates shipping costs alone would be about $50,000 per pound, plus the construction costs and everything else which could tally $10 to $20 billion, according to Wired.
But it’s an undertaking that could accommodate a near future of increased space travel. Essentially, it would update the communications infrastructure so we could move forward without worrying we won’t receive all the data we’ll be spending so much to get.