NASA and the European Space Agency have successfully tested what they say could be the foundation of the interplanetary Internet by controlling an earthbound LEGO robot from the International Space Station (ISS).
Using a NASA-developed laptop, Space station Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams remotely drove a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operation Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
As deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, Badri Younes, explained:
The experimental [Internet] we’ve tested from the space station may one day be used by humans on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations.
The technology, called Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), works similarly to terrestrial Internet in that it splits up data streams into packets and then routes those packets to the nearest working node which then get send to the user’s computer.
NASA hopes that the new communications infrastructure will be better at working around disconnection errors that are caused by the current system that requires a continuous connection between the source and the destination.