The Isle of Man will store digital copies of postage stamps on the Moon as an off-site backup trial.
The self-governing British Crown Dependency is partnering with Lonestar, a company that aims to deploy small data centers on the lunar surface.
The contract will piggyback on the wider NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. After spending some time on the Moon, the stamps will be transmitted back to Earth as part of the larger Artemis lunar exploration program.
Each digital stamp will be verified and tracked during its return trip to the Moon, with this trail becoming part of the digital footprint. They will then be transmitted back to Earth as part of the larger Artemis lunar exploration program.
"We are delighted to be involved in this very exciting mission which will see Isle of Man stamps being ‘posted’ to the Moon for the very first time," Chairman of Isle of Man Post Office Stu Peters MHK said. "Isle of Man Post Office prides itself as a trusted technology and logistics partner and this digital dispatch to the Moon and back will be a very special delivery indeed."
The Isle of Man has become an unlikely success story in the commercial space sector, with 30 of the world's top 50 satellite companies basing some of their operations on the small island. Low taxes, space-friendly regulations, and decades of targeted government support have helped local space businesses flourish and attracted overseas businesses.
"Having grown up in the Isle of Man, I feel enormously privileged to be able to run such a novel mission from my home," Lonestar CEO Chris Stott said. "We could not do this without the Island and its unique commitment to disaster recovery, space, and the global digital economy."
Lonestar is based in Florida, but has a presence on the island. The company's first mission is scheduled in the second quarter of 2023. "We were scheduled for this month, but NASA asked Intuitive Machines, our provider, to move their mission back and to change landing sites," Stott told DCD in March.
Lonestar plans to send lightweight data center equipment to the Moon, and will offer a disaster recovery backup service, as well as Edge processing for missions based on the Moon. Initial deployments will be a server and storage module the size of a book, powered by solar energy.
Hardware is built by space logistics firm Skycorp, and contains multi-core RISC-V processors.
Back in 2021, we spoke to Thales Alenia Space about NASA-backed efforts to build a data center on the Moon. If and when the facility is live on the Moon, it will connect to Nokia's Moon-based cellular network. Both will form part of LunaNet, which we have profiled in detail.