Monday, November 23, 2009
The Interplanetary Internet
Everything is already connected, with or without an internet. People will figure out that out soon enough.
Meanwhile, we're stuck with the primitive internet we have on Earth, which so far has killed the music industry, the book industry, and lots of other stuff. Not to mention it's turning millions of people into sociopaths in training.
And Earth's internet's about to get a lot bigger. There may not be many people elsewhere in the solar system yet, but NASA, DARPA and Google are preparing for that day - they're now working on an interplanetary internet and even a deep-space internet. There's already plenty of sourcepoints to set a vast network of nodes for it in the solar system, thanks to all the satellites and space junk we have littering our region of space (over 4 million pounds of it in near-Earth orbit alone).
With a new type of software called Disruption-tolerant Networking (also known as Delay-tolerant Networking) this new net will soon replace radio as the communication standard in aeronautics. Using this new DTN technology, NASA successfully transmitted images 20 million miles through space, albeit at a somewhat slower rate than the terrestrial internet.
Curiously, DARPA (which usually looks at projects in terms of decades) is insisting this program be fast-tracked and fully operational by the year 2013.