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