How Data Technology Aims to Improve Space Travel

The problem with exploring space is that it takes too long to travel and send information to Earth. Data technology is the solution as it develops hardware, software, and strategies to make transmissions faster, easier, and more robust.

Here’s what experts have accomplished so far in connecting data technology with space travel, plus how this relationship can benefit astronauts and people on Earth.

What Is Data Technology and Analytics?

Also referred to as DataTech, this industry specializes in digital data and finding the best ways to use it. A key priority is managing the information, before breaking it down and analyzing for insights.

In terms of data management, developers try to make it as simple as possible to bring up the information you need on your device—regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or spaceship computer. Being able to send it from one device to another is also important.

Innovations in Data Technology for Space Travel

When it comes to space innovations, it’s harder to bring data technology into the equation but not impossible. For example, in August 2021, Microsoft Azure’s Space team—in collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)—conducted the most exciting experiment to date.

They combined edge and cloud computing to create a better workflow from the International Space Station (ISS) to HPE’s ground station, Azure, and then the National Institute of Health’s dbSNP database.

The experiment was to make testing astronauts’ genes for radioactive effects faster while they’re in space. Azure’s algorithms succeeded, compressing data on the ISS and sending it in a matter of seconds.

For example, 150MB of raw genetic data was filtered down to 900KB, while the overall information processing and downloading took over an hour.

However, none of this would have been possible without HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2—installed on the ISS in February 2021. This system outshines its predecessor with extra edge processing power and AI capabilities.

Related: What Is Edge Computing?

Alongside both these breakthroughs in space and data technology, the ISS is a hub for all kinds of experiments in microgravity. Products like optical crystals, optical fibers, and ceramics were made there. So were important discoveries in treating cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and more.

What Data Technology Offers Space Travel

While the fast transfer of data keeps people on Earth up to date on several ongoing projects, it’s the benefits to space exploration we’ll focus on now. So, how can enhanced data analysis and transmission impact astronauts and the industry backing them?

1. Well-Rounded Communication

Each development in data technology for space enhances how astronauts communicate with ground control. While they already use audiovisual systems to talk directly, sending materials like images, videos, and research data always involved big delays that hindered projects.

Innovations like Azure Space’s workflow change that for the better. Communication between Earth and vessels in space should become more efficient and productive, especially in advising astronauts and contributing to Earthly matters.

2. Powerful Analytics in Space

With the Spaceborne Computer-2 in full use now, astronauts can process materials right there in space without taking or sending them to Earth and waiting for updates.

Judging by NASA‘s list of breakthroughs aboard the ISS, this comes in handy for tasks like identifying microbes, DNA sequencing, and analyzing results from experiments. They can have data in hand within hours, if not minutes.

Then, if the new workflow comes into effect, the supercomputer can filter the data down to its essentials and deliver it to Earth without delay.

3. Timely Updates in Space Research and Monitoring

Combining better communication and processing tools can create more productive research facilities in space. To be exact, ground control and space vessels can collaborate better and exchange tangible insights in real-time.

Efficient data transfer also benefits the monitoring of Earth from space. Astronauts must watch the planet and report changes related to natural disasters or other interesting phenomena. Data technology aims to speed that up too.

4. Faster and More Insightful Developments in Astronaut Healthcare

As impressive as space travel is, it takes a toll on astronauts’ bodies. Known problems include muscle atrophy, bone loss, and changes in eyesight and genetics. Experiments like NASA’s Twin Study, published in Science in 2019, confirmed these and more health issues.

Space-focused DataTech innovations help identify problems and solutions faster. When it comes to technology for humans to live on Mars, for example, this sector can make a huge difference. Even better, astronauts can keep track of their health while in orbit or beyond.

5. Better On-Board Agriculture

Data can improve more than healthcare. Growing food in zero gravity has been a challenge for the sciences, but its success means healthier meals for astronauts and less cargo for each trip—so it’s important.

Several studies in Russia, Japan, China, the US, and elsewhere overcame that obstacle, thanks to artificial oxygen, lighting, temperatures, and the collection and analysis of plant data over the years.

Today, astronauts can enjoy fresh produce like lettuce and soybeans. At the same time, on-board agriculture provides natural air and water filtration.

6. Better Spaceship Design

Other discoveries space research made involve things like combustion, water purification, and engineering. All the data collected on such matters constantly contribute to the development of safer, cheaper, and more efficient spaceships.

Without such information and innovation, we wouldn’t be able to answer how rockets land back on Earth or how satellite imaging works. And the more data that comes to light, the more experts can improve the experience and results of space travel.

7. Greater Awareness and Support From the Earthbound Public

An indirect but fortunate outcome of enhanced data exchange between space vessels and Earth is greater visibility. The public gets intriguing and fun news more frequently, which boosts awareness and support for projects related to space.

Related: Virgin Galactic: How Do Space Flights Actually Work?

Keeping institutions in the loop is just as rewarding. Anyone with solid ideas and backing can present their projects, revolutionize space exploration, and perhaps even use the ISS for experiments. So, whole companies have the power to do a lot in terms of studies, publicity, and financial support.

The result is an inspired public and unified interest in taking the space industry and its explorers further than ever.

Information About Space Can Benefit All Ages

Data technologies for space are still under development, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Even so, the quality of life and work has greatly improved for astronauts since the early days of space exploration.

Keeping this passion and thirst for knowledge alive is crucial, even if only to make sure space travel continues to push boundaries. Fortunately, there are many ways to teach adults and children alike about this industry of scientific marvels.

Astronaut sitting on a moon
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