The time it takes for data to travel from the sender to the receiver--latency--causes problems on Earth. You may have experienced it when trying to conduct a news interview on a satellite link. Now imagine your news feed is coming from Mars instead of an Earth satellite. The exact delay will depend on how far Mars is from Earth, but is on the order of a million milliseconds each way. While there is no solution in sight for human visual/aural communication over such great distances, Vint Cerf, often called the father of the Internet and co-author of the TCP/IP protocol on which the Internet is based, is working on a solution for data traffic between planets.
In 1998, Cerf began work on the InterPlaNet. This protocol is a collaboration between NASA and the Advanced Research Project Agency. Last week itwire.com.au reported on a talk Cerf delivered during a recent conference on the "Future of the Internet." Cerf said, "We are working on standardizing the protocols to enable spacecraft to communicate and share information across the solar system. Communication between a rover operator on Earth and a rover operator on Mars, via a relay orbiter, can't use standard Internet protocols end-to-end." Cerf plans to have a well functioning Earth-Mars network in place by 2008 using the InterPlaNet protocol.
For more information how IPN works, visit www.ipnsig.org and read the paper Delay-Tolerant Networking: An Approach to Interplanetary Internet. Also, see the itwire.com article Inter-planetary Internet expands to Mars and beyond.
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