A fun news item today: researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a software tool that they say is the first step to establishing an interplanetary supply chain.

A report on MIT's website describes it thusly: "By 2020, NASA plans to establish a long-term human presence on the moon, potentially centered on an outpost to be built at the rim of the Shackleton crater near the lunar South Pole.

"To make such a scenario possible, a reliable stream of consumables such as fuel, food and oxygen, spare parts and exploration equipment would have to make its way from the Earth to the moon as predictably as any Earth-based delivery system. Or more predictably: One missed shipment could have devastating consequences when you can't easily replenish essential supplies."

The researchers—Olivier L. de Weck and David Simchi-call the software SpaceNet 1.3. "SpaceNet evaluates the capability of vehicles to carry pressurized and unpressurized cargo," the MIT report says. The professors are assuming that many missions will carry freight but not humans, and they foresee a system where goods en route from the Earth to the moon, Mars, and beyond, hopscotch among "nodes" or little unmanned weigh stations in orbit.

What do you think? Is this the best way to think about sending cargo to space? Or would you rather MIT focus on getting containers from China into Long Beach on time?