How Can Computer Science Help Us Get To Mars?

SpaceX thinks it can get a person to Mars within 20 years. This seems optimistic, given that SpaceX does not enjoy the significant chunk of the USA’s federal budget that permitted NASA to get to the Moon on a relatively short time scale. Nevertheless, it’s a good goal, and presumably 50 years of improvements in space systems engineering will make up for some of the shortfall.

Since I strongly believe that getting humans off the rock needs to be a priority, I want to help. What are the CS problems that (1) can be addressed in a University and (2) will directly support getting off the rock? Since much of my research is aimed towards increasing embedded software reliability, I suspect that I’m already in the right ballpark, but once we get into the specifics there are a lot of ways to go astray. Perhaps I should see if I can do my next sabbatical at SpaceX. I recently read a book on how space systems can go wrong and (no surprise) there are very many ways, some of them software-related.

One reply on “How Can Computer Science Help Us Get To Mars?”

  1. Since we’d like to drag the Internet, or something like it, with us out there, there’s been quite a bit of work in the networking world on Delay Tolerant Networking: how to build a network when the one-way delays are minutes, hours, or days; when connectivity varies (and gets cut off) over time (often predictably, due to orbits); when transmission costs are a major factor (and power availability may vary over time), etc.

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