Voice communication is an essential component of human planetary exploration. Astronauts will need to communicate with each other in the field and with others back at a base station. In addition NASA is researching ways for astronauts to use voice recognition software to command robotic assistants.
Voice over IP (VoIP), using techniques developed for telephony, is a natural method for providing voice services for planetary explorers. Providing the ability to make telephone calls over the Internet, VoIP can augment or replace radio frequency communications in remote environments that are not serviced by a conventional telephone system. VoIP can provide better quality voice than either analog radio or conventional phone. As another benefit, VoIP enables the integration of voice and data applications, thus eliminating the need for separate frequency management and antenna systems.
Recently, several NASA research groups jointly conducted science and technology field experiments in remote locations, such as the Desert Research Technology Studies (Desert RATS) in Arizona. NREN, in collaboration with colleagues at Glenn Research Center, supported these experiments by providing satellite connectivity back to the NASA centers and providing VoIP for experiments and communications back to home sites.