Space Station Internet Too Slow for Gaming

Here's one they haven't hit on South Park yet: The International Space Station's earth-to-orbit Internet pipe is too slow to play online video games. Or at least that's what Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfiel said in response to a question about playing online games in space during a recent Q&A roundup.

According to Hadfield—who's flown two missions in space and currently looks to command the ISS next year—the sluggish connection speed is a matter of two ships passing in the void (well, a planet and that solar-panel-winged space depot Ryan Reynolds goes winging past in Green Lantern). Because the space station's booking along at eight kilometers per second (that's about 17,896 miles per hour), its Internet connection is roughly tantamount to dial-up speeds (it's also the reason Reynolds roughly perpendicular trajectory and station flyby in the movie doesn't quite add up).

Yep, no World of Warcraft in space. Because the first thing you're thinking while floating in zero-G with a once-in-a-lifetime view of the planet is when your next 40-person raid's happening.

It's probably not as bleak as Hadfield makes it sound. NASA's been testing software-defined radios (SDRs) for years and teasing the possibility of bringing 100 megabit per second Internet to the space station. Back in 2009, the agency said it was prepping something called a Communication Navigation and Networking Reconfigurable Testbed, or CoNNeCT), to be added to the ISS this year. I can't find anything on its status at present, but I do see we're hard at work bringing InterPlanetary Internet online.

But say everyone's favorite international space hulk that cost between $35 billion and over $100 billion to assemble finally gets a decent earth-space Internet pipe. I'd give it another half-century or more before we're running studies like "The Effects of Violent Video Gaming in Zero Gravity." Because you just know that one's already in the offing.

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