Can you imagine living on a different planet and what it would be like?
Well, some people sure have!
It was only quite recently that the Perseverance Rover mission successfully landed on Mars after its seven-month, 290-million-mile journey from Earth. This NASA mission cost about £1.9 billion and was groundbreaking in terms of technological advancement. In fact, the mission’s success, marks an ambitious step toward the effort to collect samples from Mars and return them to Earth to check the sustainability of life forms from Earth on a temporary basis in a Mars-like atmosphere.1
Behind headlines about billionaires’ jaunts into space, there is a far greater motivation: the belief that building human civilizations in space will be the only way to save the future of humanity.
How Did it All Begin?
The physicist Gerard O’Neill was probably one of the first to reflect on humanity’s deep future in space during the mid-1970s.2 Most scientists spoke of how there wasn’t much of a suitable atmosphere for building settlements on the planetary surface with harsh, punishing atmospheres, differences in gravity, the cost and effort of fueling, and so on.
However, O’Neill came up with the idea of enormous floating cylinder-shaped settlements not too far away from Earth, where people would live on the inside, within forested towns, lakes, and fields. While the idea seemed far-fetched at the time, it was one of the most inspiring ideas that influenced a generation, and one of those was none other than Jeffrey Preston Bezos!2
“When you look at the planet, there are no borders,… It’s one planet, and we share it, and it’s fragile. We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future…”3
Bezos’s vision for the future is that people will be born in space colonies and will visit Earth like it’s a vacation. In a recent interview, he talked about his idea of space colonies: floating habitats that mimic Earth’s weather and gravity, and how they would be able to hold as many as a million people with forested greeneries, rivers, lakes, and wildlife. Establishing life outside of Earth is a vital point of contention between Jeffrey Bezos and Elon Musk.4
Another brilliant mind, Elon Musk, is making major strides in the field of space technology and feels strongly that it is essential to secure humanity’s continuance. According to Musk, preserving “the light of consciousness by becoming a spacefaring civilization & extending life to other planets” is the only way to safeguard human life beyond the blue planet, as he believes the Earth is more likely to become uninhabitable in the future.5
Role of Coding
Tons of data and multiple trials later, the Perseverance Mars landing was one among many space explorations that turned successful. In order to have a successful mission, we need details of previous analysis with accurate space data.
Today we have existing space explorations: space stations, rovers, missions, and more, which would have been deemed impossible even a couple of decades ago.
So how did it all become a possibility today?
All of this is possible due to supercomputing powers and coding, as it is the prerequisite here. To even think and to work on the possibility of living on another planet, coding is necessary.
The human race has survived and thrived by developing productive activities that evolved into regular routines and standardized platforms—by creating and advancing code.6
Coding has always been a principal part of space exploration and will only continue to play a more crucial role in the future.7 From Python to Machine Learning and AI, there are myriad ways in which coding has buttressed space exploration with an eye toward the future. Some simple examples of code that have greatly aided in terms of space explorations are discussed below:
- NASA’s Apollo 11 Mission8
The mission that put human beings on the moon for the very first time was launched in 1969. It was the beginning of an entire generation of dreamers who wanted to become astronauts, which soon evolved into a possibility.
Margaret Hamilton’s code for the Apollo 11 mission, called the Apollo guidance computer, was an epic feat of engineering that possibly changed the future of what was considered achievable by humans and technology.
- Reusable Code9
There has been a collaborative approach by NASA to programming where they use a platform to share code within their team. This manner of reusing code for collaboration saves time, creates a smooth workflow, and expedites space exploration and missions.
- Coding in Education7
In recent years, knowing how to code has become an integral part of space exploration because, without coding, there could not be any at all. Educational pathways use coding to help aspiring scientists enable future missions with machine learning, artificial intelligence, and so much more.
Microsoft, in partnership with NASA, announced a couple of coding lessons, modules, and training paths focused on space exploration.
There have also been courses based on the role of Python and other programming languages in space exploration. These courses not only serve as an introduction to the most popular programming languages but also to innovations like AI, ML, and professional tools used by developers, such as Visual Studio Code, Python Notebooks, and so on. Aspiring coders will gain a better understanding of the Nasa Artemis program.
Coding is used to help create solutions for exploration challenges ranging from strategies for rock sample collection to forecasting rocket launches years in advance.10
- Coding in the Final Frontier7
The world was stunned when NASA’s Curiosity Rover used its robotic arm to snap a selfie on the surface of Mars and send that picture back to Earth. Coding has made such breakthroughs possible today. It has made space exploration so much more efficient by streamlining data coming from Mars and publishing it directly on the NASA Mars website.10
These are some simple examples of code that have greatly aided in terms of space exploration.
However, talking about the possibility of moving to another planet entirely is not something we can arrive at a definitive conclusion yet. Though given how technology has made so many previously unimaginable things possible, only the future will tell if code can indeed help us build civilizations on other planets.
- Picture News – Could you imagine living on another planet? | Bawtry Mayflower Primary School. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://bawtrymayflower.school/blog/post/picture-news-could-you-imagine-living-another-planet
- The long-term quest to build a “galactic civilisation” – BBC Future. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210721-the-quest-for-a-galactic-civilisation-that-saves-humanity
- Jeff Bezos says spaceflight reinforced his commitment to solving climate change. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/jeff-bezos-says-spaceflight-reinforced-commitment-solving-climate-chan-rcna1467
- The Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos rivalry extends to the moon – The Washington Post. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/21/elon-musk-jeff-bezos-moon-rivalry/
- Elon Musk on Twitter: Why we have to build civilizations in space. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/26/elon-musk-on-twitter-why-we-have-to-build-civilizations-in-space.html
- Civilization Is Built on Code – Nautilus | Science Connected. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://nautil.us/civilization-is-built-on-code-2-7294/
- Coding and space: Microsoft and NASA learning pathways serve as a STEM career launchpad | TechRepublic. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/coding-and-space-microsoft-and-nasa-learning-pathways-serve-as-a-stem-career-launchpad/
- The brilliant, funny computer code behind the Apollo 11 mission. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://slate.com/technology/2016/07/the-brilliant-funny-computer-code-behind-the-apollo-11-mission.html
- The Buzz on Coding and Outer Space | Tynker Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://www.tynker.com/blog/articles/ideas-and-tips/the-buzz-on-coding-and-outer-space/
- Coding Brings Mars Data Down to Earth | National Air and Space Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2022, from https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/coding-brings-mars-data-down-earth