The commonly held refrain, “Crypto to the moon!”, may actually be more literal than you thought; NASA has awarded a research grant of $330,000 to a scientist in Ohio in order to develop an Ethereum-based system for autonomous piloting of spacecraft.
Jin Wei Kocsis, working in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron, received the grant and is leading the project. She said:
“In this project, the Ethereum blockchain technology will be exploited to develop a decentralized, secure, and cognitive networking and computing infrastructure for deep space exploration… I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete a number of tasks automatically. I am honoured that NASA recognized my work, and I am excited to continue challenging technology’s ability to think and do on its own.”
Kocsis’ research aims at addressing the problem of communication time-lags in current remote-controlled space exploration. Existing technology causes there to be lags of several minutes between commands being given, and their being received by unmanned spacecraft. Her proposed solution is to use Ethereum smart contracts to create a system which would remove this lag, acting automatically onboard when certain criteria are met, to avoid environmental hazards such as space debris.
She hopes that this would leave more capacity for scientists to focus on data gathering, as they would no longer need to be on the lookout for environmental dangers.
Whilst this project will be some time in development, it is significant as it is the first time NASA has considered using blockchain technology in the field of navigation and communication.
The use of blockchain to assist in the piloting of vehicles here on earth is however already being explored. Last month (March 2018), motor giant Ford patented their idea of ‘vehicle to vehicle cooperation to marshal traffic’; the notion behind it is to install a blockchain-based system in Ford vehicles which would allow them to communicate with one another in order to maximise road efficiency. This, it is hoped would lead to lower congestion through cars coordinating their speed and movements with one another. It is also hoped that it could lead to a type of on-road credit system, which would allow drivers to accrue tokens through cooperative driving practices.
Image Source: “Pixabay”