It is often said that we know more about the Moon they we do the deepest parts of our oceans here on Earth. Whether or not that statement holds up to much scrutiny, it is certainly true that both the open sea and the darkness of space share a remoteness that brings with it a number of challenges.
[easy-tweet tweet=”Sea & space share a remoteness that brings with it a number of #communication challenges”]
Communication is foremost among these shared challenges, and the level of connectivity that we’ve come to expect on land is much harder to achieve at sea or in space.
Connectivity at sea
The 2015 Crew Connectivity survey shed some light on the level of communication available while travelling on the high seas. According to the report, 79 per cent of respondents had access to satellite telephone, 43 per cent had internet access and 24 per cent had access to SMS messaging.
Many of these communication services are only available in certain parts of the ship, meaning privacy can be an issue, and they may be in high demand. Whilst it seems that the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention has helped to ensure that crews are not completely cut off, there is still far less connectivity than we would expect when at shore.
Connectivity in space
Initially it may seem unlikely that astronauts would have any connectivity with their loved ones back home. The International Space Station, for example, is located some 400km from Earth. However, technology allows those onboard to stay in touch with Earth despite the vast distances and logistical challenges involved.
In fact, in 2010 NASA introduced a software update that granted astronauts personal use of the internet in space. Although speeds are slow (worse than dial-up reportedly), the online connection helps to mitigate feelings of isolation and even allows them to keep up to date with any social media goings-on.
In order to get online, the data request must travel from the astronaut’s laptop to a network of geosynchronous satellites, then to a receiver on the ground and then back to the astronaut – a journey of around 22,000 miles.
As well as online access, astronauts can also make phone calls in space too using a specialist program known as Softphone. Astronauts simply dial the number through their computer keyboard and then speak into a specially designed headset.
[easy-tweet tweet=”Astronauts often have to put up with lag and periods of complete #communication blackout”]
It may seem unlikely, but in many ways connectivity is less of an issue in space than it is at sea. Having said that, astronauts often have to put up with lag and periods of complete communication blackout when out of range. It is also worth noting that journeys at sea may only last a matter of hours, making those periods of poor connectivity much more bearable than months in space. In any case, continued development in wireless communications means that it may not be too long before sailors and astronauts alike can experience the same level of connectivity as they do on solid ground.