Life on Mars, with the Internet and all!

Sunil Rajguru
New Update

Former US President Donald Trump okayed the US Space Force and planned an ambitious Artemis Mission. Now it appears that this could indeed be the beginning of a new era in space exploration.


In the 1990s, the Satellite Phone was a hot commodity used by the global high and the mighty powered by the Iridium satellite constellation. That never really went mainstream. Something that is planning to totally mainstream on a global scale is Starlink satellite broadband.

Starlink comes from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the beta service is already on. More than 1500 satellites have been launched in Low Earth Orbit. The ultimate goal is to launch tens of thousands of satellites. The ambition of this can be seen by the fact that the total number of satellites up there belonging to all the countries and all the space agencies is less than 10K.

All the billions of humans spread across the far corners of the globe (and even any IoT device no matter how remotely placed) will have access to the Internet and we can aim for 100% coverage. After broadband on Earth, we now have broadband in space.


What next? The Moon of course. NASA’s Artemis III mission planned to take off in 2024. That’s where Nokia has been roped in to put the first cellular service on the moon, using LTE/4G. That will help if there is continuous habitation on the moon. Nokia says they will deploy a “compact form factor” especially for the moon. Here’s the interesting part. That can be upgraded to 5G in the future! This is also an eye to Mars for any such planned future missions.

So here’s calling from Earth to Low Earth Orbit to the Moon and finally to Mars! In fact, Musk is very gung ho about an Internet service on Mars as he wants a permanent human settlement there. That’s one of the goals of his SpaceX company: He wants those profits to fund his Mars mission.

Beyond all this, futurists are already discussing something called the Interplanetary Internet. It’s not as easy as it sounds. This will not be the Earth’s Internet. Every space body will have its own Internet and they will be connected in a painfully slow manner. While the speed of light is close to a whopping 3 lakh kilometres a second, it will still take 1.3 seconds to travel from the Earth to the moon. That’s a good latency in Internet terms.


For Earth to Mars, light takes a good 3 minutes and this only gets longer as we go to the other planets. But a protocol is already being developed called Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN). If anyone can do it, it’s the Father of the Internet Vincent Cerf. He started on a design for the Internet early in the 1970s and that’s something which really took off in the mid 1990s.

Well, Cerf started work on the Interplanetary Internet way back in 1998! Their prototype software was tested by the Mars Rover in 2004 and they did further experimentation on the International Space Station in 2016. Cerf is also looking forward to the Artemis program for further study. If we use Internet Protocol, for Deep Space they are developing something called Bundle Protocol.

Growing up there was no shortage of science fiction about man spreading out into space and exploring it. But now for the first time, the infrastructure for permanent residency on the Moon and Mars is being set up as is the communication for interplanetary travel.

Will we see humans using the Internet while living on the surface of Mars in our lifetimes? Well, you can at least put such a bet on it today!

spacex life-on-mars nokia-on-the-moon starlink delay-tolerant-networking interplanetary-internet