Communications Infrastructure to Support Human Activities on Mars
Ned Chapin, Ph.D.
Information Systems Consultant
Menlo Park CA
The Mars Network proposed by NASA and JPL offers exemplary features to support the exploration of Mars. Given the current political interpretation of the publicÕs willingness to support Mars missions, the Mars Network will probably fail to be implemented. However, the need for the Mars Network or some alternative to it will continue to grow. Rapid changes in technology are now occurring and we have more definitive concepts of our expected communication needs. Together, these give us the opportunity to refine and improve a proposed communication infrastructure to support human activities on Mars, better and at a lower cost.
The human needs for communications support have time and situational aspects. The time aspects will require a close integration and interaction of storage, retrieval and computer facilities with communications facilities. The four main situational aspects are personal informal circumstances, group-level public knowledge changes, collaborative work interactions, and notice disseminations. The communications facilities fortunately are benefiting from the rapid current advances in technology. We can now provide wider bandwidth with most communications media at lower cost, and higher quality wireless capability in a wider range of coverage distances. While some of EarthÕs spectrum limitations do not apply on Mars, Mars imposes its own physical limitations on communications. Also, we can now multiplex and compress messages better than before and make more use of digital communications technology. Finally, communications facilities will need to be extensible and reconfigurable on site to support human activities on Mars.