Earth has just received a laser-beamed message from 10 million miles away.
There’s now no excuse for the boo you saw last night to leave you on read if humanity can now receive messages this far.
IFLScience reported that NASA has used lasers to beam data from beyond the Moon and back to our little blue planet, potentially changing spacecraft communication for the better.
NASA conducted the test on November 14 on the Psyche spacecraft, which was launched into space to investigate an asteroid, as per NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The spacecraft uses the agency’s first demonstration of optical communications beyond the Earth-Moon system called DSOC.
It can beam data using a flight laser transceiver, a ground laser transmitter, and a ground laser receiver.
The demo achieved it’s ‘first light’ when Psyche’s laser transceiver locked onto a powerful uplink laser beacon transmitted from the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory at JPL’s.
The uplink beacon helped the transceiver aim its downlink laser to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, which is nearly 10 million miles away – 40 times farther than the Moon is from Earth.
Trudy Kortes, director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said this marked a major scientific breakthrough.
“Achieving first light is one of many critical DSOC milestones in the coming months, 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,” she said in a statement.
Meera Srinivasan, operations lead for DSOC at JPL added: “Tuesday morning’s test was the first to fully incorporate the ground assets and flight transceiver, requiring the DSOC and Psyche operations teams to work in tandem.
“It was a formidable challenge, and we have a lot more work to do, but for a short time, we were able to transmit, receive, and decode some data.”
Optical communications have been sent from the Earth’s orbit before, but this is the furthest distance accomplished by laser beams.
The further the distance optical communications have to travel, the harder it becomes as it requires more precision, however this is definitely a game changer for space exploration communication.
Dr. Thomas Hughes is a UK-based scientist and science communicator who makes complex topics accessible to readers. His articles explore breakthroughs in various scientific disciplines, from space exploration to cutting-edge research.