This article from SPACE.com about the Interplanetary Internet (IPN) is not science fiction. It is becoming a reality, Rich Gray reports.
On the freezing surface of Mars, a sensor takes readings of the thin atmosphere and transmits the data to an automated rover, which relays the information to an orbiting satellite. From there, the data packets are sent to an approaching research ship, where astronauts study the readings and send their findings back to Earth, via e-mail.
This may sound like science fiction, but it is becoming science fact. The Interplanetary Internet (IPN) has a growing number of proponents, including Vint Cerf, a co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol and who is often referred to as the "father of the Internet." The IPN would form a backbone connecting a series of hubs on or around planets, ships, and at other points in space. These hubs would provide high-capacity, high-availability Internet traffic over distances that could stretch up to hundreds of millions of miles.
Gray adds that all the planets and satellites in our solar system have already Internet addresses and that NASA is already communicating with its earth-orbiting missions through its internal Deep Space Network.
OK, NASA is using it, but what about the rest of us?
Scientists are hoping to launch a series of IPN-equipped satellites, possibly as soon as 2005. With one or more IPN-equipped satellites in orbit around Mars, we would have a two-planet IPN network.
Does this mean we'll be able to use it in 2005? Gray answers.
Earth-bound Internet and cell-phone users won’t be surfing the IPN any time soon, but the research that goes into the interplanetary network could spark innovations in new or existing terrestrial networks. "That type of work usually does result in some relatively speedy commercial spin-offs," said Stephen Farrell, chairman of the IPN Special Interest Group (SIG).
You can participate to the discussions on this SIG if you want to.
Source: Rich Gray, Special to SPACE.com, May 2, 2003
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