Internet visionary Vint Cerf predicted on Wednesday that in the coming decades, scientists will have developed an interplanetary Web, or a common set of communications protocols that will allow sensors on spacecraft, satellites and planets to transmit information to each other and back to Earth. Google, of course, would be the search engine to organize all that data.
"I think were going to end up with an interplanetary backbone over the next 20, 30, 40 years..." Cerf said during a talk at Google's analyst day in Mountain View, Calif. We'll have "data coming back from space, which we'll help to organize just like we organize (everything else)."
Google hired Cerf in September 2005 to be its Internet evangelist, but before and since then, Cerf has been working on building communication standards for deep space for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Meanwhile, Google has invested itself in space-related projects since hiring Cerf. The search engine has teamed with NASA Ames Reseach Center on various development programs, such as making NASA lunar and Mars data available online. In September, Google also invested $30 million to sponsor the Google Lunar X Prize, a contest that asks private teams to build a robotic rover capable of roaming the lunar surface and then sending video, images and data back to Earth.
During his talk, Cerf said that the interplanetary backbone will accumulate as new private and publicly funded missions are launched in the solar system. If anyone's equipped to build the new architecture, it's Cerf, who co-designed the Internet's communication protocol. In previous interviews with CNET News.com, Cerf has described the interplanetary Web in a little more detail.
"In the interplanetary exploration of the solar system, most of the communication systems have been tailored very carefully to the sensor platforms on the spacecraft. What that means is that two different spacecraft may not be able to communicate with each other," Cerf has said. "So the vision here as time goes on is that we will accrete a kind of interplanetary backbone that will be made up of the resources of all these various spacecraft," he said, "some of them on surface of planets, some on satellites, some in orbit, some simply flying free."CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.