If you thought the dizzying joys of internet poker, the fantastic efficiency of RSS feeds, and the mindboggling singlemindedness of YouTube commenters were unique to this Earth, think again. Last week marked the successful completion of the first test of interplanetary internet, a new communication protocol that will enable automatic transmission of data through the far reaches of space. NASA and JPL must be pretty stoked — but if I were a Reticulan with a computer, I'd be even more excited.Our terrestrial internet works according to a series of protocols, the two most important of which are the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP) — hence TCP/IP. In the relatively close quarters of our planet, TCP/IP — which depends on near-continuous network communication — works pretty well. In outer space, however, communication glitches suddenly arise: orbital movements, solar storms, probes crossing between planets, and the sheer intimidation of extremely large distances. So NASA developed Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN), a new way to transmit data that uses scattered nodes to overcome those problems. DTN has achieved some success on Earth, but its shining victory was its recent first use in outer space. Over the past month, NASA put its new DTN-enabled network through the paces, and sent data from computers here to the Deep Impact space probe 32.4 million kilometers away. Deep Impact received photographs of Mars, Phobos, and information technology pioneer J.C.R. Licklider, as well as a diagram of proto-world-wide-web ARPANET. With the development of DTN, we've proved that automatic deep-space transmissions are possible; while we may not be able to meet any universal neighbors in the foreseeable future, we might just get to send them annoying email forwards. Now, how long before interplanetary internet hackers make themselves known? I can't wait. Thanks to tipster Kathryn! Deep Impact spacecraft image courtesy NASA. "Interplanetary internet" passes first test [via New Scientist] NASA Tests Interplanetary Internet [SPACE.com]
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But when they add their vast intergalactic knowledge to Wikipedia, it'll just be deleted as vandalism. After all, how would a Reticulan cite his source?