Earth and Europe seen from space
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The question “What if we put it in space?” seems to be the new go-to solution to all our problems on Earth, whether it’s moon colonies, communication, advertising, or shooting people we dislike into the sun. Might as well store our files up there too.

A European Commission is exploring the idea of putting datacenters into orbit, where no one can hear them hum. It’s all part of the Horizon Europe research program and is being led by Thales Alenia Space, a collaboration between European aerospace and defense companies Thales and Leonardo.

We’re long used to storing important data in the cloud, like that original picture your friend sent where it looks like he’s holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But all that data means mainframes and servers and massive datacenters. They’re apparently causing a big impact on energy consumption, according to Thales Alenia Space.

So the impetus here is to explore heaving those datacenters into space where they can be powered by solar energy and use optical communications that links the data back to us on Earth (assuming people want to see that data again).

Now, some obvious “Wait a second” reactions and objections may be occurring here. Sustained. A company concerned with the carbon footprint of datacenters is going to solve that issue by building rockets and launching those datacenters into space? Isn’t that like when world leaders take private jets to a CO2 emissions summit?

But they’re looking into that, and assessing if the construction and launch of the space infrastructure justifies the environmental objective of the project.

The other primary concern is: What if something breaks? It’s difficult enough to get somebody to fix the photocopier in the office, and that might be a tad harder when they have to head to space to repair a storage array (“Will be there between 12:30 and 6:30”).

Perhaps Thales Alenia Space watched the movie Moon and is imagining the space datacenter being manned and repaired by an endless supply of Sam Rockwell clones.

In any case, they’ll figure all that out. It’s difficult to get a good cup of coffee at a datacenter anyway, so maybe it’s better to put them in space instead of taking up valuable Earth real estate.

One wonders what sound will be made when you upload a file to space. It’ll probably be a little louder than emptying your desktop recycle bin.

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Chason Gordon is a staff writer and editor for How-To Geek. His writing has previously appeared in Slate, Vice, Input, and The Globe and Mail, among others. He currently lives in San Antonio, but is on a month-to-month lease.
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