Thales namesake predicted eclipse in 585 B.C.
As you’ve undoubtedly heard, a total eclipse of the sun will occur over a great swath of the United States on August 21- that is this Monday, so don’t forget to go to the library to get your official eclipse sun gazing sunglasses (while supplies last). This is the first time an eclipse will be visible over North America since 1979, but it’s probably the most excitement we’ve seen about an eclipse in more than 2,500 years.
Our company’s namesake was adopted from Thales of Miletus, a Greek philosopher (from modern-day Turkey), who is recognized as the first person in western civilization to have engaged in scientific philosophy. He is credited with predicting the solar eclipse of 585 B.C., which is said to have halted a major battle between warring powers in Anatolia.
It is no coincidence that we associate with this philosopher because our technologies are rooted in a deep tradition of using foundational scientific knowledge to develop some of the world’s most innovative technologies – technologies which help humanity see the farthest edges of space. This is no easy task because space-based infrastructure is hard. Space platforms are complex to engineer, risky to get in orbit and challenging to update.
And yet we are on the edge of a new evolution in space technologies being shaped by disruptive innovations that will change how we explore the heavens, and how we gaze back at Earth. In fact, today we rely on space technology in our everyday lives, from weather reports to mobile communications to GPS.
Through big data and artificial intelligence, Thales sees the future of space as one that allows us to predict environmental changes – such as future flood plains, erosion, and depleting farmlands; commerce – such as traffic density patters and real estate mapping; and business operations – such as airline and commercial shipping routes and even future drone fleet tracking. When applying this type of disruptive technology to space borne activities, the possibilities are great, and within 10 years we could have better crop yields to feed the planet, advanced air navigation capabilities for crowded skies, and even remote controlled shipping – to name a few potential applications.
All these tasks will require increasing amounts of bandwidth and advanced artificial intelligence capabilities. Today, NASA satellites generate more than 9 petabytes of data each year and distribute 28 terabytes of data to global users every day. Thales is working on space platforms that will meet the demand for satellite bandwidth – expected to reach 1.2 Tbps by 2023 – with smaller and flexible satellites such as the Spacebus NEO.
Never before have we had such awesome technologies available to explore space and deepen our understanding of the planets, including our own. In addition, the uptick in new commercial space companies and the pioneering of low-cost, renewable satellites are creating a real democratization of space. Though the fact remains that most space-based infrastructures, such as satellites and the International Space Station, can last for 15 or more years, most never receive a physical hardware upgrade. That is why digital technologies are so important, and being able to update onboard processes without changing satellite architectures is one way we will constantly renew our critical infrastructure in space. In the future, we will soon be able to service space platforms in orbit that were previously thought unserviceable -- allowing dramatic increases in the lifespans of our investments in space.
While the telescope came more than 2000 years after Thales of Miletus first used math to predict celestial movements, it took less than a century for the space age to begin maturing into the Digital Age.
So as you find a good viewing area for Monday’s eclipse, remember the steps it took to develop our current understanding of the cosmos – a scientific revelation that started with one person, now embodied in the name of a company that continues to push the boundaries of science on this planet and beyond. Enjoy the show!