“Social media in space? What about social media for the remaining billions of people on earth who still don’t have access to it?” some probably (definitely) thought as they saw the title. This is admittedly a very broad theoretical topic in 2019.
As Mark Zuckerberg discusses broadening access around the globe, some are thinking (possibly decades) into a future where social media is readily accessed on celestial bodies such as Mars.
The internet is already accessed in a variety of ways on earth, from ethernet cables to wifi. In 2019, most conversations revolving around space are still based in survival priorities, like building settlements that won’t harm humans living in them or creating sustainable food solutions.
Thing is, social media in space is already a thing. Astronaut Scott Kelly posts beautiful space images to Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Coming to Texas! I’ll be stopping by Austin and Houston to share stories and photos from my #yearinspace in #EnduranceMemoir and my new photo book #InfiniteWonder! I’ll be signing copies too. Full book tour schedule up on my website. Link in profile. Hope to see y’all at one of these events! 🚀
But when we consider an expanded social media infrastructure that transcends celestial bodies, we have to think routers, modems, or brand new tools for internet access.
Astronaut Kelly has tweeted about internet on the International Space Station (ISS):
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) April 26, 2015
Astronaut Reid Wiseman gave a similar response:
.@emilner we have a very slow internet connection, but reliable email. Email was the preferred way to get info.
— Reid Wiseman (@astro_reid) February 20, 2015
It was in January of 2010 that NASA announced that they were bringing the world wide web out into space with a special software upgrade at the International Space Station.
If this were the 90s, some people might have immediately imagined a long ethernet cable stretching from the orbiting station to NASA headquarters in Houston, Texas.
However, NASA refers to it as the “ultimate wireless connection” which is interesting considering how slow it still is to hook up to the internet up there.
January 2010 was also when Expedition 22 Flight Engineer T.J. Creamer posted the first unassisted tweet to his Twitter account, @Astro_TJ.
Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! 🙂 More soon, send your ?s
— TJ Creamer (@Astro_TJ) January 22, 2010
To go online, astronauts use the same channel that’s used for all data that goes to and from the station. Their personal web access is called the Crew Support Local Area Network (LAN).
The crew access the World Wide Web via a ground computer using high-speed Ku-band communications, which is a microwave range of frequencies from 12 to 18 gigahertz. Ku-band is mostly used for satellite communications.
NASA is also looking into laser-based internet systems. They’ve transmitted HD video from the International Space Station to the ground via laser beam:
Someday, internet may be accessed by methods only just beginning to be researched like quantum entanglement. If humans perfect the art of using quantum entanglement as a tool, then the internet could potentially be accessed across galaxies. In space, the internet would be a crucial tool to deal with not only survival, but the crippling loneliness of space.