JPL Sends E-mail to Spacecraft: FIRST!!!11

NASA announced today that it has successfully tested a “deep space communications network modeled on the Internet.” In the last month, dozens of images have gone back and forth between the Jet Propulsion Lab in California and the Epoxi spacecraft, about 20 million miles away. 20 million miles. My wireless blinks out on particularly windy days, nevermind solar flares and spacedust, but NASA has worked out a neat protocol called “Disruption-Tolerant Networking” (DTN). Unlike the Earth Internet, which is a series of tubes, DTN utilizes a series of nodes that know to keep information until it can be safely passed along to the next node—”store and forward,” the article says, so your ship can go behind a moon or an asteroid or could pass between nodes and your data would still get through. In the tests, these nodes were actually all on the ground at JPL, but the idea is that “Mars landers, orbiters and ground mission-operations centers” could all act as nodes for DTN communications. The lag time is between three and a half and twenty minutes, but when you think about it, that’s not bad for e-mailing Mars.

[Image of adorable little data packet and mommy-node by Flickr user


, licenced under

Creative Commons

and loled by me.]


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