Future focused - Blockchain in the age of space travel and light speed limitations



It takes light between 3 and 22 minutes to travel between the Earth and Mars, depending on where they are in their orbits around the sun. Not to mention the sun itself which gets in the way, along with Earth’s moon depending on their positions. Any solutions other than simply waiting for the sun to pass would likely take long if relay space stations or satellites were used to bounce the signals around the sun’s interference.

This poses a problem for blockchains to operate across space. Even the distance to the Earth’s Moon or to other space stations which may be deployed around the solar system including at several other points in Earth’s orbit or perhaps locations out near the asteroid belt would also experience delays.


I would propose a solution using Cardano’s side chains with non-pegged assets. These would be local, but distinct, blockchain assets. So we’d have Earth Cardano and Mars Cardano and Asteroid belt station 1 Cardano, etc. though likely they’d pick more varied names. And these would be their own coins with their own markets and exchange rates. I don’t think any form of a common Cardano would function when it takes so many minutes for the networks to communicate, 22 minutes each way would be no good and regular block formation as we know it doesn’t work, you’d need a syncing protocol.

Hence my suggestion of side chains which only form blocks on Earth once per day, while they are in far more continuous local operation on Mars except for a 1 hour a day freeze for the Earth sync.

I would propose we set up a schedule where there are local pauses for synchronisation across networks or even simply across the entire solar system depending on if Earth is the central location or if the entire network needs to be maintained this way.

Perhaps we’d even forgo regular on chain networks and operate a special layer 0 for cross planetary/station transactions. So we’d have Sundano as the one for the solar system and then earthdano and marsdano, ceresdano, etc. though this poses issues and has limitations which might be better served with a side chain sync with regular Earthdano Cardano as the primary chain with all others as side chains.

At the least I would think to do this once per day. In this way we would need to incorporate a routine stoppage mechanism to pause transactions on the solar location networks for the time it takes to sync and this needs to be set using either a standard maximum or perhaps it could be cut down to try and match the distances involved.

I would think to go for a standardised operation with perhaps 1 hour a day where transactions are paused on their networks to allow them to interface with Earth’s networks. This gives some leeway for any network disruptions or delays, and we’d need a failure state to be able to skip a day if necessary. We must avoid forks in the chain as a primary goal and if the sync doesn’t finish in that 1 hour window, then it is discarded as a superblock sync to try again the next day. This avoids the Marsdano network starting up transactions after the 1 Earth hour has passed which would experience a fork if a later than expected Earth sync came in after the 1 hour - in which case the local transactions would be kept and the late Earth sync discarded.

The goal would be to allow for interoperability in the first place (which is a challenge and not a given) and to avoid continual slippage and wasteful arbitrage discrepancies in exchange rates.

Though derivative trading throughout the day using more real time/less delayed time news would likely have an effect on price and could be traded far more often as it would not require any stoppage of transactions on the main chain. I’d imagine this would still be two different ones with an Earth derivative of the Marsdano/Earthdano and a separate Mars derivative for speculators who might choose to trade based on simple off-chain information they gather. But still, some sort of primary syncing seems like it would be necessary if we are to have these operate as Cardano side chains, ignoring the speculators and derivative traders on their local planet derivative networks.

Though it calls into question how much of the security and services offered to a side chain can be realised with such delays of only once a day or twice a day syncing. Perhaps some sort of lagging sync could be used which would sync on an hourly basis for 24 syncs a day and it would simply be operating in the past? That might pose more challenges than positives, though it could be explored as an idea.

Another complimentary idea would be to have a secondary mechanism for all locations for an on-chain queue of transactions which could facilitate trades between Earth and Mars networks. It would accumulate transactions in between the syncs and then execute once per day or twice per day, etc. I think once per Earth day would be ok as shutting down the local networks for longer than 1 hour a day would be problematic.

Likely there would be some sort of local layer 2 or other side chain solution to allow for day to day operations/transactions etc to occur without disruption. It could otherwise be a pain point and disincentive to use the Earth syncing coins if they cannot be used for 1 hour a day.

One could imagine having a temporarily/scheduled fixed amount of layer 2 Marscano coins which are limited/disconnected from the main Marscano layer 1 chain while the layer 1 syncs with Earth for 1 hour each Earth day. But then you’d still have that $5,000 worth of layer 2 or whatever money available to you on a continual basis without the disruption from the layer 1 sync, but you’d be unable to transfer from your own layer 1 to your layer 2 or do anything with your layer 1 account during the sync with Earth.

In this way one could operate with lower fees for everyday transactions, perhaps even in a local stablecoin variety of some sort - maybe pegged to a basket of locally relevant resources such as air/water/heat/energy/etc. for the local Martian cities or space stations, etc.

I think the key here will be governance and split governances from each locale which come to agreements about what rules will be used and when sync events will be scheduled. Right now we are at the nascent phase of one planet’s worth of governance, but it will be interesting to see such joint governance proposals across localised blockchain networks around the solar system develop over time.

Such work would involve cross planetary development collaboration efforts along with interesting clauses and governance situations where Cardano on Earth can pass/reject a proposal, but it would need to have a sub-clause that even if passed, the changes would only go through if the change were also passed on the other planet’s chain.

So new infrastructure will need to be added to allow for such conditions or perhaps we can leverage other smart contract style conditions and oracle checks of other chain’s on-chain governance results.

I’d almost expect some form of Earth based cross-chain governance solutions to come up at some point over the next 20 years where conditional changes are needed in both Cardano and another chain - for instance for Cosmos to become a Cardano side chain, perhaps a governance item must pass on both chains in order for some on-chain code changes to be made, and timed, to occur on both networks.

So by the time we get to needing a Mars or Asteroid Belt solution, some of the cross governance solutions might already be in place.

Right now chains cannot read each other directly, but perhaps some of the existing smart contract functionality could be leveraged. But this simply cannot ever be automated and the choices will come down to true governance and voting by the communities on the various chains.

Not to mention the physical infrastructure! This may be like the internet and be open access, but it may not be. Time will tell if we need decentralised infrastructure solutions for communication satellite arrays and such.

Anyhow I think it could all work and work well, but it’d require a few new solutions and governance cooperation between chains.

Overall what is most fascinating to me is that we have or are building many of these tools right now and there are clear logical extensions of existing designs which could meet the needs of a multi planetary/multi station earth solar system blockchain. It just goes to show how robust and solid Cardano designs and plans are that we could solve multi-light distance location problems with minor extensions.

Now when you go out beyond to other stars, this is no longer feasible and I’d argue not necessary either. If the light distance is measured in years, then there is no real need to have or sync any types of common currencies or blockchain assets. Mind you this is all under the current technological dynamics implied by our sub-light speed travel and communication.

If we one day figure out how to make and leverage small wormholes or other similarly powerful/fast knowledge and technologies, then we could have near instantaneous communication across enormous distances and might once again use some common blockchains - though I’d argue local varieties of currencies would still proliferate in that scenario as the needs of Earth, Sol Asteroid Belts and Alpha Centauri space stations would be so different that local blockchains would still be popular.