Off-Off-Prem Storage Takes Off to the Moon

Image credit: iStockphoto/Elen11

CDOs know about on-prem and off-prem. But a company in the U.S. state of Florida now wants to store your data off-off-prem. Lonestar Data Holdings has announced plans for lunar data centers on the Earth's moon, some 360,000km (perigee) from our spinning globe.

“Lonestar sees the Moon as the ideal location to serve the premium segment of the USD200 billion global data storage industry while addressing key environmental and growing biosphere concerns triggered by the increasing growth of data centers around the world,” said Lonestar in a statement.

Daunting environment

The stated goal of siting data centers on the moon seems driven by ecological concerns. “Data is the greatest currency created by the human race," said Chris Stott, founder of Lonestar. "We are dependent upon it for nearly everything we do, and it is too important to us as a species to store in Earth's ever more fragile biosphere. Earth's largest satellite, our Moon, represents the ideal place to safely store our future."

This is laudable. But Earth's satellite seems a daunting place for such storage.

“The surface of the Moon is an extreme environment with temperatures that range from 140 °C down to −171 °C, an atmospheric pressure of 10−10 Pa, and high levels of ionizing radiation from the Sun and cosmic rays,” says Wikipedia. “For most practical purposes, the Moon is considered to be surrounded by vacuum.”

Form follows function

“Believing both form and function are important as the world's data takes this next giant leap, Lonestar is also working with the world-renowned architectural firm BIG for the exterior design of their first lunar data center.” The firm mentioned is Denmark's BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, who collaborated with “Heatherwick Studio [and] Google’s design and engineering teams” on Google's new Bay View Campus. The idea “is to create a human-centric design for the future of Google’s workplace and set new global sustainability standards for construction and office design.”

Confluence of visionary space mavens and ace architects

While Silicon Valley is firmly parked on Terra, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group (led by “starchitect” and BIG founder Bjarke Ingels) is the firm behind Mars Dune Alpha, “a starchitect-designed habitat touted to be 'the highest-fidelity simulated habitat ever constructed' for living on the red planet.”

In 2016, architect Rem Koolhaas named Ingels one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. “The Danish architect, known for bombastic design solutions, has been working to position his firm as the go-to design visionary for building livable ecosystems on a scorching hot planet without breathable air or potable water,” writes Quartz.

That sounds great. But Google and NASA have known revenue streams that can likely support off-world projects. How about Lonestar Data Holdings?

Partners to the moon

Lonestar self-describes as a “VC funded startup” in its April press release announcing its plans for lunar data centers. “Lonestar contracts with Intuitive Machines and Skycorp to bring key data storage and edge processing infrastructure to the world from the Moon,” the firm adds.

Texas-based Intuitive Machines has a contract to “contract to deliver research, including science investigations and a technology demonstration, to the Moon in 2024,” according to a NASA press release. “The commercial delivery is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and the Artemis program.”

Siting data centers on the moon seems driven by ecological concerns

“The investigations aboard Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander are destined for Reiner Gamma, one of the most distinctive and enigmatic natural features on the Moon,” said NASA. The U.S. space agency said that Reiner Gamma is “known as a lunar swirl” and “scientists continue to learn what lunar swirls are, how they form, and their relationship to the Moon’s magnetic field.”

According to Crunchbase, California-based Skycorp Incorporated “is in the business of expanding spaceflight capabilities between the Earth and the Moon, and beyond.”

Pie in the sky?

“Lonestar is currently closing its USD5m seed round from investors like Seldor Capital and 2 Future Holding,” said The Register. “To raise more money, it'll have to prove its technology is feasible and will start with small demos on commercial lunar payloads.”

The NASA press release states: “Intuitive Machines will receive USD77.5 million for the contract and is responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, delivery from Earth to the surface of the Moon, and payload operations...the four investigations Intuitive Machines will deliver to Reiner Gamma are collectively expected to be about 203 pounds (92 kg) in mass.”

These investigations comprise measuring equipment and include “mobile robots programmed to work as an autonomous team to explore the lunar surface, collect data, and map different areas of the Moon in 3D.” This is exciting stuff, and it's also expensive.

It may be tempting to write off the purported lunar data centers as pie in the sky or sheer lunacy. No more realistic than the 1902 film A Trip to the Moon by famed French director Georges Méliès. But that's a disservice.

As Star Trek reminds us, space is the final frontier. It's a difficult environment, but potential rewards are high.

Some industrial processes will benefit from zero gravity — if the inherent challenges can be overcome. As our planet becomes depleted of rare earths and other minerals, these substances may well exist elsewhere in our solar system. They may be beyond our reach, but how will we ever know if we don't attempt to extend that reach?

Perhaps the confluence of visionary space mavens and ace architects will someday result in effective data storage on Earth's satellite. But, in 2022, the most accurate statement we can make is: “We simply don't know yet how feasible it will be.”

Stefan Hammond is a contributing editor to CDOTrends. Best practices, the IOT, payment gateways, robotics and the ongoing battle against cyberpirates pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Elen11