To space and beyond with open source

Open source projects are helping to satisfy our curiosity about what lies far beyond Earth's atmosphere.
137 readers like this
137 readers like this

Carl Sagan once said, "The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." In that vast desert of seeming nothingness hides some of the most mysterious and beautiful creations humankind ever has—or ever will—witness.

Our ancient ancestors looked up into the night sky and dreamed about space, just as we do today. Starting with simple, naked-eye observations of the sky and progressing to create space telescopes that uncover far reaches of the universe, we've come a long way toward understanding and redefining the concepts of time, space, and matter. Our exploration has provided some answers to humanity's enduring questions about the existence of extraterrestrial life, about the finite or infinite nature and origin of the universe, and so much more. And we still have so much to discover.

Curiosity, a crucial component for space exploration

The Cambridge Dictionary defines curiosity as "an eager wish to know or learn about something." It's curiosity that fuels our drive to acquire knowledge about outer space, but what drives our curiosity, our "eager wish," in the first place?

I believe that our curiosity is driven by the desire to escape the unpleasant feeling of uncertainty that is triggered by acknowledging our lack of knowledge. The intrinsic reward that comes from escaping uncertainty pushes us to find a correct (or at least a less wrong) answer to whatever question is at hand.

If we want space discovery to advance at a faster pace, we need more people to become aware of the rewards that are waiting for them when they make the effort and discover answers for their questions about the universe. Space discovery is admittedly not an easy task, because finding correct answers requires following rigorous methods on a long-term scale.

Luckily, open source initiatives are emerging that make it easier for people to get started exploring and enjoying the beauty of outer space.

Two open source initiatives for space discovery

OpenSpace Project

One of the most beautiful tools for exploring space is OpenSpace, an open source visualization tool of the entire known universe. It is an incredible way to visualize the environment of other planets, such as Mars and Jupiter, galaxies, and more.

The Moon visualized by the OpenSpace project

To enjoy a smooth experience from the OpenSpace simulation (e.g., a minimum 30fps), you need a powerful GPU; check the GitHub repository for more information.

Libre Space Foundation

The Libre Space Foundation's mission is "to promote, advance, and develop libre (free and open source) technologies and knowledge for space." Among other things, the project is working to create an open source network of satellite ground stations that can communicate with satellites, spaceships, and space stations. It also supports the UPSat project, which aspires to be the first completely open source satellite launched.

Advancing the human species

I believe that the efforts made by these open source initiatives are contributing to the advancement of the human species in space. By increasing our interest in space, we are creating opportunities to upgrade our civilization's technological level, moving further up on the Kardashev scale and possibly becoming a multi-planetary species. Maybe one day, we will build a Dyson sphere around the sun to capture energy emissions, thereby harnessing an energy resource that exceeds any found on Earth and opening up a whole new world of possibilities.

Satisfy your curiosity

Our solar system is only a tiny dot swimming in a universe of gems, and the outer space environment has never stopped amazing and intriguing us.

If your curiosity is piqued and you want to learn more about outer space, check out Kurzgesagt's YouTube videos, which cover topics ranging from the origin of the universe to the strangest stars in a beautiful and concise manner.

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This is Youssef from Paris, France. I am presently in my final year as a computer engineering student at Telecom SudParis and I'm also pursuing a bachelor in philosophy at Paris X. I am currently interested in building platforms to train software engineers through competitive programming.


Is there any FLOSS to allow me to simulate star/planetary system evolution? Be nice to be able to make my own solar systems from gas clouds!

The idea is great, but I am not sure if such tool exists. If it does it would then require a consequent quantity of computing considering the complexity of such systems such as the solar one. Additionally, I am afraid this computing load can only be handled by super calculators, it is hence not at the reach of public users.

In reply to by madtom1999

True Dyson Sphere with Sol star is highly unfeasible, if I remember correctly even Dyson said that he'd rather do a swarm. On that topic I can recommend Isaac Arthur YouTube channel. His videos are basically documentary series focused on Megastructures, getting to and colonizing space, ETs...

But one of few things he keeps mentioning and expects: To jumpstart space economy we need automation (machines, 3D printers). With that you can create actual infrastructure (from power-satelites to far future orbital ring or even starlifting in the very far future).

So while there are no holidays on Venus despite 80's popular songs and movies, 3D printing rocket nozzles is the reality and all kinds of facilities do run automatically nowadays.

I do agree with you argument concerning the Dyson swarm, as it clearly seems more feasible than a sphere. Regarding the production of the swarm, we do actually need automation to control our near outer space environment.

There is this book written by John Von Neumann about the concept of a universal constructor, it is called "Theory of self-reproducing automata". As described, the universal constructor can build copies of itself, which can also build copies of themself and so one and so forth. We can therefore exploit mining resources of other planets to build the swarm.

In reply to by Pavel Zubaty (not verified)

Indeed, it is growing fast. The simulator project you mentioned earlier seems interesting, and it is even more interesting since it is made available for the whole community to use.

In reply to by Joshua Pearce

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