Since the dawn of mankind, humans have gazed up towards the big wide skies in fascinating amazement while pondering about our existence in the grand scheme of the cosmic universe and wondering whether there is any life beyond Earth.
Fast forward to the twenty first century, humanity still finds itself gazing up at the skies albeit more in desperation than fascination or amazement because to put it simply, we have ruined this planet which we call home.
With a spate of natural disasters ranging from hurricanes, wildfires, floods and droughts wreaking havoc in various parts of the world resulting in climate-related disasters rising by more than three times in the last 30 years, it is little surprise that humanity finds itself questioning the continued habitability of Earth.
On 29 July 2019, the United States (US)’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) gave humanity’s search for a new planet to call home a major boost when it successfully launched its high-tech rover i.e. Perseverance on a space mission to Mars in search for extraterrestrial building blocks of life.
Once it lands on Mars, the Provenance is set to head for the 28-miles long Jezero crater to study the sediments in the crater for any trace of organic compounds and minerals which may indicate the availability of life-supporting features on the planet.
Right from the get-go, automation has been designated as a must-have component for the Provenance as the sheer distance between Earth and Mars meant that there would be a substantial communication lag in the transmission of information between the two planets.
This communication lag renders it impracticable for the Provenance to be operated by humans while exploring the Red Planet. Hence the Provenance is fitted with an automated landing system which allows the rover to land on the fly, free of the dangers posed by Mars’ rocky terrain.
Additionally, the Provenance is also equipped with autonomous self-driving capabilities which enable the rover to move about on Mars without human intervention.
Recognizing the importance of automation in space exploration, NASA is set to take things to a whole new level with its Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm (RNCP) which would leverage on blockchain to develop an autonomous spacecraft system that operates in a decentralized manner.
Under the RNCP which marks NASA’s maiden venture into the blockchain domain, the space agency would be looking to use Ethereum-based smart contracts to develop autonomous spacecrafts which can navigate the challenging environmental conditions of outer space.
Leveraging on Ethereum’s consensus protocols, NASA’s autonomous spacecrafts would be operated by a state of the art networking and computing infrastructure which enables the spacecrafts to deftly avoid any danger or hindrance such as deep pits and flying debris that they may encounter in outer space.
Once NASA’s autonomous spacecrafts are fully developed and properly commissioned, they would embark on space exploration missions dubbed as Distributed Space Missions (DSMs) whereby multiple of these spacecrafts will be working towards a common goal.
Besides NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) has also jumped on the blockchain bandwagon in furthering its Space 4.0 agenda. As part of the ESA’s efforts to achieve its developmental goals under the agenda, it has collaborated with Scottish startup Hypervine to develop a mining database constituted by distributed ledgers which store information sourced from space satellites.
In line with the ESA’s Space 4.0 agenda, the development of a satellite-linked decentralized mining database will pave the way for a greater understanding of outer space among the general society which would in turn help spur the development of space exploration activities.
If the theories postulated by ancient astronauts are anything to go by, extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth and made contact with our prehistoric ancestors in ancient times.
In the event that this is indeed true, then any contact which modern humanity does get to make with extraterrestrial beings would be an old reacquaintance instead of a new connection.
Historical matters aside, the conditions of Earth in our present times are such that humanity’s search for a new planet to call home is based not so much on nostalgic sentiments but more on practical necessity.
As the technology which plays a critical role in supporting space exploration activities, blockchain may prove to be the force which can drive humanity to infinity and beyond.
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Combining his professional experience as a corporate legal practitioner with his knowledge of blockchain, Ming Sen finds it fascinating to explore the endless possibilities of blockchain particularly in the regulatory domains of the financial services and capital markets sectors.
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