How would the internet work on Mars?
2 April 2015, by Zoe Cunningham
The news is full of big hopes that Mars will be colonised soon, with reality TV show MarsOne suggesting that we could have people there in under 10 years.
Scientists are grappling with the challenges of providing air, water (for a swimming pool, obviously), food and shelter. Here at Softwire we’re concerned with a more fundamental issue. How will we get access to the internet?
The communication time delay is reported by NASA to be 20 minutes. This might not be too much of a problem for some internet services, but for watching YouTube and browsing BBC News? Worse than dial-up.
The most sensible way to build a functioning internet is to build a data centre on Mars. This data centre would hold a copy of all websites and all regular website traffic from Mars would go between the Martian and the new data centre.
Anything that needed to be communicated to Earth (for example if you placed an order with Amazon, they’d need to check stock back on Earth) would be done in an off-line process after you’ve finished your action e.g. after you’ve placed your order it will remain as “unconfirmed” until the website hears back from Earth. Delivery times may also be slightly extended.
Luckily NASA is one step ahead of us. They have already designed an Interplanatery Internet. This is an internet structure specifically designed to cope with the long delays and fragile connections that we can expect in space. NASA has tested this new internet by sending “space pictures” to a spaceship 20 million miles from Earth.
So if you’re one of the lucky contestants who win a place out on a one way trip you might not see your family again, but you can see their holiday snaps.