The Sky is not the Limit for Internet, Cerf says

The sky is not the limit for Internet, Cerf says

Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf predicted an interplanetary Internet will be in place by the end of the decade, with communications satellites in orbit around Mars and linked with the Earth.

Cerf, speaking at the Internet Society's INET 2002 conference in Arlington, Va., this morning, said the network is not being designed because anyone thinks there is someone on Mars to use it. It would provide a uniform means of communication for space missions in our planetary neighborhood, much as the Internet does on Earth.

Cerf, a co-developer of the TCP/IP protocols on which the Internet is based, has a visiting professorship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Those protocols will not be adequate for deep space communications, he said.

'TCP/IP doesn't work when the round-trip time is 40 minutes to six hours,' he said. TCP/IP would have to be terminated at the planet or space vehicle level. 'The long-haul stuff is quite different' and resembles store-and-forward messaging, he said.

At a more down-to-earth level, a panel of speakers that included TCP/IP co-developer Robert Kahn of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives concluded that immediate challenges to the Internet are broadband and wireless access, managing intellectual property rights and development of policy at an international level that does not interfere with the network's functionality. Moving the Internet to the next version of the Internet Protocol, IP v. 6, is key for keeping the Internet functioning and growing, they said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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