Astronauts on the International Space Station used an interplanetary Internet to control the Mocup test robot at the European Space Agency's Space Operations Center in Germany in October 2012. The test could one day help astronauts explore other Mars while orbiting the Red Planet. (Photo : ESA)
An International Space Station astronaut drove a small LEGO robot on Earth using 'interplanetary internet' late last month, Space.com reported on Friday. The experiment was part of a NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) prototype system that could enable Internet-like communication between Earth and robots on another planet in the future.
Using NASA's experimental Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol, Commander Sunita Williams, who leads the ISS's Expedition 33 mission, drove the small robot at the European Space Operations Center in Germany, Space.com reported.
Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explained, "The demonstration show the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot."
Younes added, "The experimental DTN we've tested from the space station may one day be used by human on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations."
According to Space.com, DTN is a new technology that is designed to "enable standardized communications over long distances and through time delays." At DTN's core is the Bundle Protocol (BP)-similar to Internet Protocol (IP)-that is "built to account for errors and disconnections." IP, on the other hand, is used for a seamless end-to-end data path.
NASA officials added that data moving through a BP networks does a series of hops from one node to the next, making sure that each link is available.