Described as a "work in progress," the proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force--the group that sets standards for the Net--calls for terrestrial testing of interplanetary Internet protocols later this year, with a live test onboard the NASA Mars mission in 2003.
"What we are fundamentally about is deploying as much re-usable, standardized communications infrastructure as we can afford around the solar system, so that future missions don't have to take it all along with them," said Adrian J. Hooke, manager of NASA's mission operations standardization program and co-author of the proposal. "They can use capabilities put in place by other missions."
The proposal calls for a network of Internets to facilitate communication among planets, satellites, asteroids, robotic spacecraft and crewed vehicles and create a stable interplanetary backbone network.
While it may sound like a pie-in-the-sky plan, the person heading up the project is none other than Vinton Cerf, an MCI WorldCom vice president and creator of the TCP/IP standard--the foundation of communications on the Internet.
Furthermore, the plan has the support of both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Others working on the project include members of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mitre, Global Science and Technology, and SPARTA. NASA already has begun experimenting with remote Internet communication, demonstrating last year that it could use standard Internet protocols to communicate with an orbiting spacecraft just like any other node on the Internet.