NASA is collaborating with Lonestar and the Isle of Man to use blockchain to secure lunar-based data storage.
A conspiracy theory arguing that NASA faked the 1969 moon landings has gained significant traction over the past few years.
We’ve all heard the questions, “if we really went to the Moon in 1969, why have we never been back?”; “the pictures are clearly faked – look at the shadows”; “there’s no wind on the moon, so how can the flag fly?” (spoiler alert: it’s not ‘flying’, it’s just wrinkled up from four days of space travel).
NASA is currently preparing for its next voyage to the moon via Artemis 2 and 3, but this time, the agency is equipped to defeat any doubters.
Blockchain will be used to verify data
As part of the Artemis programme, NASA will send a payload of ‘data cubes’ to the moon to test the possibility of lunar-based data storage, BBC Science Focus reported. The mission will be conducted in collaboration with Florida-based computing firm, Lonestar, in addition to the Isle of Man.
“It’s a really interesting challenge, not just for us, but for NASA,” Kurt Roosen, head of innovation at Digital Isle of Man, told the magazine. He observed that it’s “surprisingly difficult” to prove to people that the moon missions actually happened.
When the data cubes land, data will be authenticated on Lonestar’s data centre to “prove its provenance” on the moon. When back on Earth, it will be assembled onto a blockchain to prove it’s been verified – marking the first time blockchain tech has been used in space travel.
The benefit of using blockchain tech is that it’s highly secure and tamper-proof, unlike traditional data storage methods (unless remote and unplugged).
Lunar data centres are thought to be a way to protect information in the event of a catastrophe, whether it’s human discovery and knowledge or something contentious as national secrets.
“In history, we’ve seen several circumstances where perceived bodies of knowledge have been lost or cultures have disappeared,” Roosen said. One such example is the mysterious burning of Egypt’s Library of Alexandria in 500AD – a library that once held the most extensive documentation of known human knowledge.
Not all experts are on board with the idea , though.
Professor Peter Bentley, a computer scientist at University College London, told BBC Science Focus that the mission is unnecessarily costly and difficult.
“What’s wrong with an uninhabited Earth location, like the bottom of a disused mine? You don’t need a spacecraft to reach it for repairs,” he said.
He compared lunar data centres to throwing a USB flash drive into the sea, stating that “the data is not going to get hacked, but there are a few other issues”.
Prof. Bentley pointed out that conditions on the moon are also far from accommodating. Storing data at such extremes of temperature and radiation increase the risk of faults, resulting in data corruption, he explained.
Despite the challenges however, many in the crypto space will be pleased to see that blockchain technology – the same tech that powers DeFi, Bitcoin, Ether and more – will be used to verify human presence on the moon.
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