The minds of NASA, the European Space Agency, and Google vice president Vint Cerf, all masters of their respective domains, have collaborated to create something that weaves together all of their expertise: Disruptive Tolerant Networking (DTN), a kind of space-friendly internet that will allow scientists to send messages over the millions of miles between Earth and the farthest reaches of space.
And though it’d be great to have a Curiosity Rover that could actually tweet its thoughts from Mars, there are more serious ideas at play here as well. Currently there’s no good system for communicating with vehicles, manned or unmanned, as they traverse the cosmos, and DTN would change that. Fast Company explains:
In simple terms, Cerf’s so-called Bundle Protocol tells machines to save incomplete data they’ve received, even if the transmission is disrupted by interference. DTN instructs recipient machines to save the bundles until they’re completely transmitted, no matter how long that takes. Then, the data packets are forwarded to the next recipient, in a system NASA calls “store-and-forward.” “[It’s] similar to a basketball player passing the ball down the court to other players nearer to the basket, who hold it as the team assembles to await the final pass to a player who has a clear shot at the goal,” explains Adrian Hooke, manager of NASA’s Space DTN project at NASA headquarters.
The system, which has been in development for years, had its first successful test this month. Watch Cerf explain more below:
(Photo: Sven Festersen/Flickr)