Blogs in space

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

What has an estimated net worth of $1 billion US, floats around in a giant can some 360 kilometres above the earth and blogs?

Space tourist Charles Simonyi. Since November, the man who made his fortune as creator and former executive in charge of Microsoft Corp.'s office suite of applications has been maintaining a blog about his preparations for his trip to the International Space Station at charlesinspace.com.

At this posting, Simonyi had not updated the blog since the night before launch, but the notion that blogging – and other internet-based communications – could continue as humans venture into space poses an interesting problem as they move farther and farther away from the earth.

With plans to put people back on the moon and go onward to Mars, the question of how an interplanetary internet would work is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. So the co-creator of the internet's fundamental communications technology, Vinton Cerf, has been working since the turn of the century on a way to maintain an internet link over vast distances.

Cerf and his co-researchers have abandoned the notion of two-way interactive communications and are instead taking an approach known as delay-tolerant networking. The technique would see information transmitted as a single chunk, rather than being broken up into parts, scattered around the internet and reassembled at the destination as occurs with the internet today.

As explained by the Internet Research Task Force's delay tolerant networking team:

We are concerned with interconnecting highly heterogeneous networks together even if end-to-end connectivity may never be available. Examples of such environments include spacecraft, military/tactical, some forms of disaster response, underwater, ... [and other areas].

So, it looks like blogs – which are by their nature a series of one-way communications – may indeed be the future of the internet, and the folks at Twitter may really be on to something after all.