MAY 10, 2016

Networking between Earth and Mars

Last year, we learned about high-frequency financial trading from JPMorgan Chase and the nanoseconds that are important to that type of networking. This year, we went to the other extreme as we let Matt Damon (aka Luther Beegle) from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory take us off-planet by explaining the network operations involved in talking to the Mars rovers. When you have 24 minutes of round-trip time and your signal bounces through multiple satellite dishes and satellites in the Deep Space Network, then proper planning, monitoring, and error handling is critical. The science teams have only short windows to work in each day in terms of sending and receiving data using technology that was prepped a decade ago because of mission preparation times and long launch windows. (They also measure their throughput in late ’80s-style kilobits per second.) It’s inspiring to see what the science teams have accomplished a world away.

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