Thursday, February 20, 2003

Veenenbos & Cerf:

In an image credit in the last issue of Science on Mars, I caught the name of Kees Veenenbos. The work he has done in visualizing Mars as a wet planet is pretty grand. Well worth the price of my large computer monitor.

This kind of realistic animation was once sold by NASA as a reason for high resolution topography missions -- they were hoping to capitalize on the then-emergent video game phenomenon to get people to pay to simulate riding around on the Moon. Although I suspect that full sensory immersion is still a valid target for game development, we are a long way from it, and no sensible business plan could include it. But it will come. Orgasmatron and all.

Kees' views of Mars made me think of a conversation with Vint Cerf I had several years ago -- he was talking about communications between interplanetary craft, and specifically the set of missions slated for Martian exploration. NASA's mantra of 'faster, better, cheaper' led to the adoption of a lot of off-the-shelf hardware and the adoption of accepted communications standards (very unusual for NASA, since they had been a large enough gorilla to simply ignore most standards up to this point). The amazing thing is that these craft all have IP addresses. Yes, just like your little desktop, there are IP addresses for, say, Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Exploration Rover. And these addresses reach all the way out to Mars. So you thought .tv, .go, and .biz were cool? How about .mars?

But no, you can't ftp. Much less csh them. As you might guess, the real IPs are well protected. NASA has enough to worry about without having to deal with hackers inadvertently changing inches into centimeters...