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Earth receives the cat's video via a laser beam

Earth receives the cat's video via a laser beam

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NASA is conducting a second communication test using a laser beam. This time everyone can see the message from space.

Palomar – Recently, NASA received a message from space via a laser beam. This message was sent from an experiment on board the “Psyche” space probe, which was launched in October and is heading towards the “Psyche” asteroid of the same name. The experiment traveling with you is called Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) and has nothing to do with the actual mission of Psyche. In fact, DSOC is just taking advantage of the fact that the spacecraft will be traveling far from Earth during its mission.

At a distance of about 31 million kilometers from Earth – about 80 times the distance between Earth and the Moon – the experiment has now sent the data back via a laser beam to the Hale Telescope in Palomar, California. Although only randomly generated data was sent the first time, this time you can see what NASA transmitted: a video of a cat. In the 15-second clip, which the space agency also posted online, a cat named Taters can be seen chasing a red laser dot. There are also graphics and music.

NASA is conducting important communications tests at a distance of more than 31 million kilometers

But in reality, it's not about the content of the video, it's about the fact that it arrives over a long distance – and quickly. The DSOC experiment is about sending videos and other data from space to Earth at very high bandwidth. According to NASA, the video was sent to Earth at a transfer rate of 267 megabits per second, and long-distance transmission took 101 seconds.

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DSOC is designed to transmit data from deep space at 10 to 100 times the speed of current space missions. NASA plans to conduct further tests of the system when the “Psyche” probe is far from Earth. It is planned that the experiment will send data to Earth from a distance corresponding to the largest distance between Earth and Mars.

The laser experiment aims to facilitate future communication with Mars

The background is, among other things, that people will visit Mars in the future. The new technology could then enable better communication between people on Earth and on the Red Planet. Among other things, this involves sending complex scientific information quickly. “One goal is to demonstrate the ability to transmit large-scale video over millions of kilometres,” confirms Bill Klippstein, DSOC project manager, in a statement. NASA announcement.

The experiment typically sends randomly generated test data to Earth via a laser. “But to make this important event even more memorable, we decided to work with JPL designers to create a fun video that captures the essence of the demonstration as part of the Psyche mission,” Klipstein said. Taters is a cat employee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Taters the cat is the star of a NASA video sent to Earth from 31 million kilometers away. © NASA video screenshot

Communication on Earth is slower than in space

Having worked over 16 million kilometres, the new system also worked flawlessly at nearly twice the distance. “Despite millions of miles of distance, it was possible to transfer video faster than most broadband Internet connections,” says Ryan Rogalin of JPL. “After we received the video at Palomar, it was sent over the Internet to JPL, and that communication was slower than the signal from space. And everyone loves Taters,” the scientist adds. (unpaid bill)