In a CNET
News.com article entitled "Launching the Web into outer space", Steve Kovsky writes about an interview with Vint Cerf, father of the Internet and creator of Transmission Control Protocol
). Cerf explains how technology is currently being developed to allow for interstellar use of the Internet
in order to "support the demands of planetary exploration". The significance of such a venture can be found in the use of orbital surveillance equipment
, robotic planetary excavation via telemetry, and the conveyance of acquired data to remote satellites and data stations by radio. The development of "a standardized protocol architecture for interplanetary communication" is an effort primarily spearheaded by the interest of implementing small unmanned vehicles in space exploration
The concerns the development team is running into currently are those involving the inordinately long distance there is in space. As Cerf explains: "The only issue that really comes up is when you go interplanetary... there you get significant delays because of the astronomical distances involved. You may run into serious variations in error rates...(and) in data rates when you send or receive data." Technology (namely, protocols) need be developed to accommodate for this rather inescapable factor in communication. Cerf and his team at Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California have spent the last three years doing exactly that.
The Voyager probe that had swept past Jupiter in the last several years was once described as a half-blind, half-deaf piece of machinery hundreds of millions of miles away in space, emitting a barely audible digital whisper to Earth of its findings. Armed with this new technology, how better capable would mankind be in devising new methods to learn about our cosmic environment? By eliminating technical communication difficulties currently at play with the manner by which space exploration occurs, so much more about the universe can be discovered.
Our view of space as the great unknown will be foreshortened by what knowledge we can so readily obtain from it with the new technologies developed through this undertaking. So much that stands in the way of progress is fear of the unknown. Christopher Columbus and his epic voyage to the New World would best exemplify this. Eliminating this psychological hurdle, man will be ready to take the plunge and venture into space himself and not merely through the eyes and ears of machinery.