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Moon Supercomputing Science

A Supercomputer On the Moon To Direct Deep Space Traffic 166

Hugh Pickens writes "NASA currently controls its deep space missions through a network of 13 giant antennas in California, Spain and Australia known as the Deep Space Network (DSN) but the network is obsolete and just not up to the job of transmitting the growing workload of extra-terrestrial data from deep space missions. That's why Ouliang Chang has proposed building a massive supercomputer in a deep dark crater on the side of the moon facing away from Earth and all of its electromagnetic chatter. Nuclear-powered, it would accept signals from space, store them, process them if needed and then relay the data back to Earth as time and bandwidth allows. The supercomputer would run in frigid regions near one of the moon's poles where cold temperatures would make cooling the supercomputer easier, and would communicate with spaceships and earth using a system of inflatable, steerable antennas that would hang suspended over moon craters, giving the Deep Space Network a second focal point away from earth. As well as boosting humanity's space-borne communication abilities, Chang's presentation at a space conference (PDF) in Pasadena, California also suggests that the moon-based dishes could work in unison with those on Earth to perform very-long-baseline interferometry, which allows multiple telescopes to be combined to emulate one huge telescope. Best of all the project has the potential to excite the imagination of future spacegoers and get men back on the moon."
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A Supercomputer On the Moon To Direct Deep Space Traffic

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  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @02:51PM (#41650929) Journal

    The supercomputer would run in frigid regions near one of the moon's poles where cold temperatures would make cooling the supercomputer easier

    Actually that is NOT what the article says. I know on slashdot that us commenters rarely read the article but things are getting pretty bad if not even the submitter reads the article!

    The reason for locating it at the poles (as the article explains) is due to the availability of water ice for cooling. You stick it in a deep crater there to provide a stable thermal environment i.e. you avoid having to design a system to cope with both the heat during the day and the cold at night. The reason this is important is because vacuum is a fantastic insulator so, despite it being cold, the only way to lose that heat is via radiation which is not very fast (this is why thermos flasks use vacuum as an insulator). The presence of water ice means that you can use it to transport the heat away from the the computer.

  • by kwark ( 512736 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:20PM (#41651151)

    My guess is OP is hinting at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_A_Harsh_Mistress [wikipedia.org]
    Atleast that is what the other replies are hinting at.

  • Re:Meteor impacts (Score:4, Informative)

    by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @04:50PM (#41651719)

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/lunar/program_overview.html [nasa.gov]

    "On average, 33 metric tons (73,000 lbs) of meteoroids hit Earth every day, the vast majority of which harmlessly ablates ("burns up") high in the atmosphere, never making it to the ground. The moon, however, has no atmosphere, so meteoroids have nothing to stop them from striking the surface. The slowest of these rocks travels at 20 km/sec (45,000 mph); the fastest travels at over 72 km/sec (160,000 mph). At such speeds even a small meteoroid has incredible energy -- one with a mass of only 5 kg (10 lbs) can excavate a crater over 9 meters (30 ft) across, hurling 75 metric tons (165,000 lbs) of lunar soil and rock on ballistic trajectories above the lunar surface. "

  • by MagusSlurpy ( 592575 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:56PM (#41652637) Homepage

    Cooling would be an issue because you have no air to carry away heat (at least at the LPs, you could build a big heat pipe into the moon). The only reasonable cooling would occur through radiant emittance, and that takes a LONG time to cool things down, and any kind of electrical activity would counteract that without a problem. Sorry, but scifi has lied to you [tvtropes.org], the cold isn't a problem in space, because the vacuum is very, very insulating.

Don't compare floating point numbers solely for equality.