Will Space Exploration Soon Benefit from IoT Tech?

By Kayla Matthews January 11, 2017

Space has always been a source of wonder and a spark for imagination. Since the beginning of the space race in 1957, we’ve been striving to leave our planet behind, if just for a few hours or days at a time. Our technology has advanced exponentially since those first tentative steps into the cosmos. 

Apollo 11, the first spacecraft to successfully take human beings to the moon, had less computing power than the mobile phone you have in your pocket right now. With NASA and SpaceX aiming for targets like Mars, when will space exploration start to benefit from Internet of Things technology?

Reaching for the Stars

We’ve sent unmanned crafts out into the universe, further than our imaginations can reach. Voyager 1 and 2 have been speeding away from our little blue dot for 40 years and have likely made it to the outskirts of our solar system. Unfortunately, limitations of technology and, if we’re honest, limitations of the human body, have prevented us from making it much further than our own moon.

Right now, our crosshairs are set on sending humans to the fourth planet in our solar system — Mars. NASA believes it can get humans to the Red Planet by the mid-2030s, while Elon Musk, the ambitious CEO of SpaceX, has set his sights on getting humans to Mars by 2024.

For most of us, heading out into the cosmos might seem like an unreachable dream. Those of us who daydreamed of becoming astronauts as children have gotten too old for space camp, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring space right into your home.

Bringing Space Home

You’ve probably got a couple of IoT, or Internet of Things, devices in your home already. If you have a digital assistant like Amazon’s Alexa, you also have access to an ever-growing database of up-to-date data from the Mars rovers that are currently exploring the surface of the red planet. NASA Mars is an app currently exclusive to Alexa that can answer your questions about Mars with data that may have been collected that very day.

With IoT spending at an all-time high and expected to continue to grow in the next few years, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to benefit space travel and exploration as a whole. What sort of impacts can we expect on the space exploration industry?

Space Exploration and You

While the processing power of a pocket calculator might have sufficed to get humans to the moon and back, it will take a lot more power to get humans successfully to Mars and beyond. That’s where the IoT comes in. While it’s difficult to get items, spacecrafts and people to and from various celestial destinations, there is one thing that is easy to move between point A on our home planet and point B out in the stars — data.

The first steps toward this move into IoT-supported space exploration are already being worked on by communications company Sigfox. The Mustang Project will connect satellites in orbit and terrestrial equipment to help link the Internet of Things with places like the International Space Station and later with interstellar spacecraft.

Once that network is established, the potential benefits are nearly endless, including:

  • Equipment monitoring: The IoT networks can be used to monitor spacecraft nuclear power systems as well as other essential systems like life support and hull integrity.
  • Real-time communication: When you’re dealing with life and death situations, which everything is when you’re exploring the cosmos, delays in communications can be fatal.
  • Data processing and analytics: The sheer amount of data that can be collected during space exploration is mind boggling. IoT can be used for data collection and predictive analytics to help researchers make sense of all the information.

This is just a small sampling of the possible applications for the Internet of Things when it comes to space travel and exploration.

Blasting Off to the Future

We’re well on our way to becoming an interstellar species. We have the will and we have the ingenuity.  Now we’re just waiting for technology to catch up to the things that we’ve dreamed up. Mars is only the first step, and IoT is going to be one of the biggest and most versatile tools to get us there. 




Edited by Alicia Young

Contributing Writer

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