Earth Receives First Laser Message From Millions Of Km From Deep Space

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Earth has received laser-beamed communication from 16 million kilometers, or nearly ten million miles, within 50 seconds. NASA stated it was 40 times further than the distance between the Moon and Earth, and the aim is to stream video calls on Mars one day.

The achievement was made thanks to the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) tool

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment is described as “the agency’s first demonstration of optical communications beyond the Earth-Moon system.” The pioneering technology took laser communication to the next step, making it possible for future expeditions to have explicit imagery, live video feeds, and data transmission.

In a statement, NASA explained, “The DSOC experiment aims to demonstrate data transmission rates 10 to 100 times greater than the state-of-the-art radio frequency systems.”

Dr. Jason Mitchell, director of the Advanced Communications and Navigation Technologies Division within NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program, explained the significance of the latest experiment, “Optical communication is a boon for scientists and researchers who always want more from their space missions, and will enable human exploration of deep space.”

Dr. Mitchell added, “More data means more discoveries.”

The Psyche mission

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment was launched with the Psyche mission. The mission aims to research, for the first time, an asteroid made not of rock or ice but of metal.

The mission, launched on October 13, promised to explore a 140-mile-wide (225 kilometers) metallic asteroid called 16 Psyche. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said after the mission was approved, “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about — boldly going to places we’ve never been, to enable groundbreaking science.”

Sending the signal

The powerful laser signal was sent from California’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the Hale Telescope in San Diego County, California, received the signs within 50 seconds. The experiment was about 40 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Abi Biswas, project technologist for DSOC at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, called this experiment a massive accomplishment. Biswas shared, “Achieving first light is a tremendous achievement. The ground systems successfully detected the deep space laser photons from DSOC’s flight transceiver aboard Psyche.”

The scientist added, “We were also able to send some data, meaning we were able to exchange ‘bits of light’ from and to deep space.”

This is one of the steps to bring humans back to the Moon and ensure they get the best knowledge about it during the next mission, set for 2025.

Biswas confirmed this, “The primary objective is to give future NASA missions the tools for returning data at much higher rates.”

Paving the way toward higher-data-rate communications

Trudy Kortes, NASA director of Technology Demonstrations for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said this experiment is “paving the way toward higher-data-rate communications capable of sending scientific information, high-definition imagery, and streaming video in support of humanity’s next giant leap: sending humans to Mars.”

The technology is designed to work as far away from Earth as possible to date – about 235 million miles, which is over twice the distance between the Sun and the Earth.

Despite the initial success, there are numerous challenges ahead. Psyche’s DSOC system will be tested again with an even bigger task. It will surpass Mars and hopefully reach the asteroid belt between the red planet and Jupiter.