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ESA, NASA test interplanetary internet by remote controlling a Lego robot from the ISS

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 9, 2012
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NASA (and the ESA) have long been working on a multi-planet internet that can link up spaceships, probes and rovers, but they've at last brought the experimentation from the broad scale to smaller dimensions. Lego bricks, to be exact. International Space Station expedition lead Sunita Williams recently steered a Lego Mindstorms robot at an ESA facility in Darmstadt while she orbited overhead, proving that future space explorers could directly control a vehicle on a planetary surface while staying out of harm's way. As in the past, the key to the latest dry run was a Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) system; the focus was more on reliably getting packets through to the brick-based vehicle than on pure speed. As tame as that Earth-bound test drive might sound relative to an in-the-field use on a less familiar world, it demonstrates that the DTN approach can work when it really counts. We just wouldn't hold our breath for any Martian RC car races.

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