Questions and answers about communication and technology in space. Part 1

    Space has always been of interest to man, and when people had the opportunity to go there, questions, perhaps, only increased. But today you can get answers to them first-hand - many astronauts have blogs and are happy to chat with subscribers, and NASA publishes a huge number of photos, research results, projects for future space missions and interesting facts .

    Therefore , everyone can find out how the life of astronauts in orbit or what technologies are used outside our planet. We decided to find answers to several interesting questions about communications, gadgets and communications in space. / Flickr / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (view from the ISS Russian segment) / CC

    How do astronauts on the ISS go online?

    Previously, astronauts did not have the opportunity to connect to the Internet directly. All publications on Twitter, for example, were made from the Earth: messages from the ISS were transmitted via downlink to the flight control center, where they were already posted in cosmonaut profiles.

    In January 2010, the Crew Support LAN network appeared at the station, and the connection was made through an orbital telecommunication satellite. Another way to access the Internet is remote access to a computer on Earth. The first space tweet was published by American astronaut Tim Krimer.

    Until now, the main way to communicate with the ISS is radio. The advantages are obvious - no special equipment is required (only the antenna and transmitter), and the atmosphere does not block radio waves (morehere ). Ku- (12-18 GHz) and S-band (2-4 GHz) are used to transmit information to space. The signal is sent to the satellite, which redirects it to the side of the ISS, where it is received using an antenna, and then, for example, an email is downloaded to the computer.

    The Russian segments of the station have their own, separate Lira radio communications system and Luch satellite data relay system. Next year, it will be able to replace the American communications system, which Russian cosmonauts are forced to use today. True, the radio speed, which depends on the distance, leaves much to be desired.

    And in 2015, astronauts were still not happy with the quality of communication. For example, Scott Kelly complainedon his Twitter page on Internet speed, which is even slower than it was on Earth when accessed via a modem. But NASA spokesman Dan Huot disagrees with this characteristic of communication. He believes that the connection speed on board is quite good, and most importantly the channel width allows you to send gigabytes of video files every day without overloading the system. In addition, in their free time, astronauts can even watch online broadcasts.

    But technology does not stand still and today there is already a faster way to transfer data - DTN (Delay / Disruption Tolerant Networking, architecture of networks resistant to delays and frequent disconnections). In the 1990s, NASA joined forces with Google to develop the technology, and this summer the system was installed on the ISS.

    DTN uses the Store-and-forward approach, which makes it possible to save packets when they lose the possibility of transmitting them to the recipient. After receiving a reliable route for delivery, data transfer resumes. Moreover, service data is stored in arbitrary blocks, and not in the packet header. A good analogy with freight is given on the wiki .

    How can I contact the astronauts?

    Many astronauts have pages on social networks where you can even chat with them, ask questions of interest and just find out about their work. Some of them are on the ISS right now. Among them - Robert Shane Kimborough (Shane Kimborough) - publishes fresh photographs of the Earth and talks about his activities. For example, a few weeks ago he planted lettuce at the station. Jeff Williams visited the ISS a little earlier this year, and his Instagram page has a collection of mesmerizing shots and even a few short videos. And American astronaut Reid Wiseman (Reid Wiseman) generally specialized in Vines. If you scroll through his page (until November 2014), you can find a video with our planet in the title role, see the Milky Way and observe space experiments on board.

    Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev returned with the ISS in 2014, but continues to share with subscribers stunning photos of different parts of the Earth and cloudy landscapes. In Sergey Ryazansky’s photo blog you can find beautiful pictures of different cities from his last flight in 2013 and see how preparations for new space travel are going. And Sergey Volkov during his stay in orbit in February of this year spoke in detail about work at the station, recorded video and shared interesting photographs: Elbrus, Egyptian pyramids and even spacewalks.

    However, for astronauts and astronauts, contact with subscribers is more important than communication with family and friends. Thanks to modern technology, you can get in touch more often and without intermediaries. For example, the organization of informal video conferences, according to NASA, has a positive effect on the condition of the crew during the flight and helps to overcome the feeling of loneliness. The psychologist Jack Stuster, studying the effects of isolation on the psyche, conducted an interesting experiment - he studied the notes made by astronauts during the flight to assess their condition.

    As it turned out, one of the first lucky ones who used such new technologies considered this communication not only a blessing, but also a “curse” (see point 4 in the source) Communication often interfered: earthly news and gossip did not allow me to concentrate on work, and sometimes I had to wait for an answer for several days, and it seemed that time was going on much longer.

    What gadgets do astronauts use?

    Phones, players, tablets and other devices, in addition to the communication function, create a more homely and psychologically comfortable atmosphere on the ISS. Many astronauts blog and take the latest cameras with them. In June 2012, NASA first sent a few iPhone 4s orbit to conduct research with the help of specially designed applications.

    Odyssey Space Research just developed the program SpaceLab, which could be used for backups and restore the state of the navigation system. Brian Rishikof, the company's CEO, said the project’s goal was to prove that a $ 500 device with a user-friendly interface could easily replace the expensive space station hardware.

    But, of course, only certified devices that have passed rigorous testing and are completely safe can get on board. For example, a certain type of battery and non-toxic plastic should be used. Today, there are 100 laptops on the ISS for just six team members. (For more details, see an interview with a NASA representative responsible for equipment in the sections “Spaceman on a space LAN”, “The rise of phones and tablets”). 20% of them are spare - on their own, astronauts can not always cope with breakdowns. 15 are used to control the spacecraft’s system, and 30 are used for daily tasks, storing data and instructions.

    Smartphones on board, presented by the iPhone and Android Nexus 5, have their own function - with the help of the SPHERES program, they can control flying drones that perform some too dangerous or, conversely, routine duties instead of crew members. In addition, NASA provides all mission participants with tablets: several generations of the iPad, including the iPad Air 2, and several Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Tablets are needed for experimentation, recording information, entertainment and talking with family.

    If we assume that in the future not only specially trained astronauts, but also ordinary people (in the form of space tourists) will be able to get into space, and the geography of travel will expand significantly, then we should think about the gadgets that will be needed in this case. In 2015, the Scottish producer of whiskey, together with the space technology agency Open Space, developed a special “space glass” that “works” even in zero gravity. The Open Space team tried to propose an alternative scenario for the development of space gadgets.

    The reasons why modern smartphones are not suitable for space travel of the future are the rapid loss of battery power in conditions of low gravity and the inability of earthly materials to withstand sudden changes in temperature from -270 to 120 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the smartphone should become holographic: it can materialize from the air, but at the same time respond to touch. So users can stay in touch with friends left on Earth, add real impressions while playing the "Space Invaders" and update the list of the best interplanetary restaurants.

    PS In the second part of our story, we will discuss why terrestrial equipment is unsuitable for use in space and how to organize interplanetary Internet.

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