A proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force calls for the US Government to ensure the ability to send email from Mars. The task force is responsible for setting up protocols that allow the Internet to function in the same “language(TCP/IP)” throughout the world. Their proposal calls for a test of the system onboard the NASA mission to Mars in 2003.


The concept is riddled with problems. The biggest one being that NASA can’t seem to actually successfully complete a mission to the red planet. Smaller problems fall under a rather large umbrella of “deployment of network equipment throughout the sheer vastness of space”; a place where even light-speed isn’t good enough.


One photon(or wave) of light takes a whole second to get to Luna(moon), over 6 minutes to Mars, 6 hours to the demoted rock of Pluto and four long years at 186,000km per second to the closest star of Alpha Centauri.


Either Martians don’t want to know us or NASA hasn’t reached a level of competency to warrant an interplanetary POP3 email system. NASA’s success rate to the red planet in the last 10 years is under 40%. It will remain dismal into the foreseeable future. 2003 is well within that foreseeable future.


The explicit motivation of the proposal is to promote commercial activity. Exactly what “expanding market” sits 157 million miles away is unknown. The commercialization of Earth’s orbit has really just begun and commercialization of the moon is nonexistent. It was only a few weeks ago that American Dennis Tito became the first space tourist at the bargain rate of US$20 million.


The Pentagon’s role is also unclear. They are providing some funding to the proposal. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently announced a proposal to separate space operations of the USAF into the “Space Force.”


Only a small shred of credibility for the proposal comes from Vinton Cerf, the creator of TCP/IP and, by extension, the Internet as you know it. He has some great ideas except that his ideas involve the Internet.


Long story made short: There is evidence that the Internet in space would work as well as any ground based node. Which means it would have equal standing in getting hacks and denial-of-service attacks.


A space-based communications system is fine if the money will be wasted regardless of effort to redirect it to more pressing needs. Just keep the Internet and TCP/IP out of it.

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