The moon is 40 times away from the Earth, the source of the message that reached the Earth via a laser beam. The content of the message is not important at all.
PASADENA – One day, people will live and work on Mars, according to a grand vision in… Space travel. By then, at the latest, data communications between Earth and Mars should be better than they are today, when only robotic researchers are active on the Red Planet. To work towards this, NASA sent an experiment into space, which has now sent data back to Earth for the first time – from a distance of 16 million kilometers.
Until now, space travel has used radio waves to communicate with distant space probes or spacecraft on Mars. But higher frequencies of light — near infrared, for example — can increase bandwidth and thus communication speed. This is the basic idea of the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment, which flies into space aboard NASA’s Psyche space probe. Psyche is on its way to Jupiter’s Trojans, so it will be moving very far from Earth.
NASA sends a message from space to Earth via a laser beam
On November 14, the DSOC experiment made its first contact with Earth and sent a near-infrared laser beam carrying test data from a distance of approximately 10 million miles to the Hale Telescope in California. 16 million kilometers – about 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Visual communication over a longer distance has never been tested before. “It was a big challenge and we still have a lot to do, but for a short time we were able to send, receive and decrypt data,” confirms Meera Srinivasan, DSOC Operations Manager.
The project aims to demonstrate the maintenance of high-bandwidth data transmission at different distances from Earth. In the future, this technology will enable “sending scientific information, high-resolution images and video streams to support humanity’s next big step: sending humans to Mars,” explains Trudy Curtis, NASA’s technology demonstration manager.
The laser beam transmits the message over a distance of more than 16 million kilometers
Over the next two years, the DSOC experiment is expected to demonstrate data transfer rates ten to 100 times greater than the most advanced radio frequency systems used by spacecraft today. NASA says. This would aid future exploration missions and enable scientific instruments with higher resolution.
“Optical communications is a boon to scientists and researchers who expect more and more from their space missions, and it will enable human exploration of space,” said Jason Mitchell, director of NASA’s Advanced Communications and Navigation Technologies Division. “More data means more discoveries.”
NASA’s experiment aims to make taking high-resolution images of Mars possible
Optical communication over shorter distances – in Earth orbit or from Earth to the Moon – has already been tested before. Compared with testing in deep space, application at short distances has a crucial advantage: it occurs so quickly that the target of the laser beam barely moves.
However, at the furthest point of the Psyche space probe from Earth, it would take about 20 minutes for the laser beam to reach its target. Both the probe and receiver on Earth have long since moved to another location. These movements must be taken into account. During the first test on November 14, the laser only took about 50 seconds to get from the spacecraft to the receiver. (unpaid bill)