I’ve always had trouble with the onboard computers on any Federation vessel. Before the Enterprise(s)/Voyager left earth, did they load up its “memory banks” (I love that quaint term!) with the totality of human knowledge? Or was there some kind of subspace connection to servers back home? That made sense for any version of the Enterprise and DS:9, but with Voyager out in the Delta Quadrant, they had to be out of range, right?
This nerdy puzzle popped into my mind when I read about a new NASA technology called Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN). Now being deployed on the International Space Station, this new tech makes transmitting data back to Earth faster and easier. It’s not Internet connectivity–the ISS is, sadly, still unable to tap into the World Wide Web like us down here–but it does point toward an ability to eventually create a connectivity that could span the Solar System.
In other words, this new tech should make it possible for the future colonists of Mars, Ceres, Europa, etc. to stream Spotify from the comfort of their radiation-proof habitats.
On Earth, we’re accustomed to what happens when something blocks a wireless internet signal. The connection slows, or even becomes disrupted entirely. For transmissions from ISS, this was a big problem because the objects in the way were large and numerous – planets, other spacecraft, radiation waves, and the like. Those obstacles made the signal slow, and sometimes meant some data was lost in transmission. DTN addresses those pitfalls in the way it transmits data. Rather than streaming bit by bit, the DTN process stores data when and if a connection becomes interrupted, and then forwards it using relay stations to its intended destination. This means the network can function even when a recipient server is offline.
Star Trek predicts the future–again. On another note, read about the time Kirk fought Jesus.