NASA and the European Space Agency have announced they have successfully tested an internet-like interplanetary communications protocol, called Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), between astronauts on the International Space Station and a Lego-built robot in Germany. Over 225 miles separate the two.
NASA and the ESA said yesterday that DTN could one day allow "internet-like communications" with spacecrafts and help support infrastructure on other planets. The experiment took place late last month, and it involved remotely operating a small Lego rover-like robot from the International Space Station.
The Lego robot was located at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany and it was being operated and driven by US astronaut Sunita Williams who used a laptop that was designed by NASA. A command sent from the laptop would start a script to control the Lego rover, which is also actually a prototype designed for use in the ESA's future missions.
NASA space communications chief Badri Younes says that once the protocol gets past the experimental stage, DTN could be useful for controlling robots on Mars from either a manned orbiting spacecraft or from Earth using satellites as relay stations. DTN is slightly comparable to the Internet Protocol in terms of functionality. However, the big difference is that IP relies on a continuous connection, while DTN allows for more disconnections and errors.