The Internet from Mars

In the 1950’s it was a commonly held belief that by the year 2000 life on the Moon would become possible and that humanity would gradually spread out to Mars and even beyond to begin colonization of other worlds.  And those projections were not necessarily overly ambitious.  Had the desire to move into space truly gripped us at the same level as our desire to communicate with one another, then it seems fairly likely that we would have developed the technology and infrastructure necessary to make this happen.  But instead of computers getting larger and more independent, they god smaller and more connected.  But when the information age eventually reaches the moon and beyond, what might it look like?  How would you surf something like the internet from Mars?

The internet as we understand it is an overwhelmingly simple apparatus.  We send out bits of data requesting information and it is brought to us nearly instantly.  But in the future, the internet may become quite different if off-world colonists or explorers were surfing it, and databases may become more important as information would have to be retrieved over the course of several minutes to half an hour.  This wouldn’t be a problem if you had a small community surfing only a few pages per day, but with an increased emphasis on social networking and the constantly shifting high data volume content of sites like Youtube, the internet on Mars would seem slower than the dial-up of the late 1990s in some ways.

Communication between planets could happen one of two ways reliably.  Previously, communication with Mars Rovers used an X band radio wave which allowed for improved communication with a smaller antenna.  A similar system may be used in the case of digital communication with Earth with a 5 to 20 minute delay between each request for information and retrieval.  The retrieval may be done by a computer located on Earth and then the information could be sent to Mars using radio waves or a tracking laser attached to a satellite orbiting Earth.  

Both systems have their drawbacks, however.  The primary problem with lasers would be the preciseness required for the communication to take place with interruptions.  Mars could be blocked off from communication altogether quite frequently when the sun passes between the Earth and Mars during orbit.  This orbital partition between Earth and Mars may one day be solved by placing a satellite to follow an orbit that was halfway around the sun each time Mars reached the other side, correcting and backtracking as necessary.  Unfortunately, this would also increase the amount of time it took for communications to travel back and forth between the red planet.

Lunar colonies, on the other hand would not have the same problems with communication as the moon is far closer at a distance of only a couple light seconds away and no sun to interrupt communication by passing between them.

The problems with communicating between Earth and Mars may be solved by hosting an offline database of sites like Wikipedia – only occasionally refreshing them, and putting others on a que to be refreshed daily while setting aside a fraction of the bandwidth to retrieve actual web pages as needed via satellite communications.