The Internet has become an integral part of people's lives around the globe, but could the Web exist in space? Researchers at NASA, not content to remain fixed to an Earth-bound system, are pushing the boundaries of network communications by testing what could one day amount to an interplanetary Internet.
Working in tandem with the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA has used its Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) program to test network operations that replicate some of the functions of the Internet, such as sending messages across long distances. In addition to messaging, last month astronaut Sunita Williams used the DTN system to control a tiny LEGO robot situated in a lab back on Earth from a special NASA-developed laptop on the International Space Station. The experiment was designed to simulate a scenario in which an astronaut located in an orbiting spacecraft might remotely control a robotic rover on the surface of a planet.