A datacenter on the moon

Last week, Wired ran an article entitled “Why We Need a Datacenter on the Moon“. Surprisingly, it was a serious article, although more wistful than persuasive. The basic premise is that there’s a coming congestion problem for the Deep Space Network, a system of antennas that provide communication support for interplanetary satellites. By placing receivers on the far side of the moon, electromagnetic noise from the earth can be reduced. Presumably, the datacenter would be placed there so that only the “interesting” results would have to be sent back to earth.

All of this depends on two things: getting the equipment to the far side of the moon and getting people to the far side of the moon. These are obviously far from trivial dependencies. There are other technical hurdles as well. For one, communications back to Earth would require either highly elevated antennas or enough cable to reach to the light side. Although cooling would be cheap since the temperature on the dark side is -280°F, something has to dissipate the heat. The proposal suggests water cooling, which means the water will likely need to be heated to prevent freezing (there are multiple ways to accomplish this, including housing the equipment in a space designed for human occupancy).

Long before such a datacenter could be powered on, other workarounds will likely be put in place. The Wired article mentions the use of lasers for space-to-earth communication. Still, it’s an interesting idea that may inspire future space exploration efforts. If NASA is ever looking for a sysadmin for their Luna office, you can believe that I’ll have my resume submitted.