NASA has been working hard on the next generation of solar system-based internet for over a decade, and it seems to have paid off, so far...
Image Credit: NASA
Fast forward to the day where we actually start sending human beings on deep space missions, such as to the Moon, or to Mars, to live there permanently or for long periods of time, we will need a way to keep in touch with them and for them to stay connected.
NASA’s new DTN (Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking) internet system is the first step in this direction, and it has already been set up on the International Space Station as of the end of June.
Because space is a relatively hostile environment, internet signals like we rely on here on Earth would not be as reliable in space. Instead, the DTN system allows for margin of error by providing a reliable “store and forward” data connection that is less susceptible to data loss from interrupted connections.
Information that is lost can be retransmitted multiple times over again until it is finally received, and this new networking plan is perfect for space, because where there are a lot of interruptions, we need a reliable way to make sure all of the data gets from point A to point B.
NASA worked closely with Dr. Vinton Grey Cerf, one of the leading pioneers of what we know today as the modern internet, to come up with this new data transfer protocol.
"Our experience with DTN on the space station leads to additional terrestrial applications especially for mobile communications in which connections may be erratic and discontinuous,” said Dr. Cerf. “In some cases, battery power will be an issue and devices may have to postpone communication until battery charge is adequate. These notions are relevant to the emerging 'Internet of Things'. "
Now that the network has been set up on the International Space Station, all we have to do is take it with us everywhere else that we go, and it’ll create a spider web of network connections in our Solar System just like the world wide web that we know today.
There are certainly bright times just ahead of us, and through science, we get to watch it all unfold.