A message from space travels 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. It’s not about their content.
PASADENA – Distances in space are unimaginably large – and pose a major challenge to communications. This would be a big problem, especially if people one day lived and worked on Mars. But even now data communications can be faster to receive more data from robotic researchers on Mars in a shorter time. So NASA sent an experiment into space that has now transmitted data to Earth for the first time – from a distance of 16 million kilometers.
Until now, radio waves have been used to communicate with distant space probes or rovers on Mars. But higher light frequencies, such as near infrared, can increase bandwidth and thus communication speed. This is the basic idea of the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment, which is traveling into space aboard NASA’s Psyche probe. Psyche is on its way to Jupiter’s Trojans and will therefore be far from Earth.
NASA’s DSOC experiment sends a message to Earth via a laser
On November 14, the DSOC experiment made its first contact with Earth and sent a near-infrared laser beam containing test data from about 10 million miles away to the Hale Telescope in California. 16 million kilometers, or about 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Optical communication over such a long 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,” emphasizes Meera Srinivasan, DSOC project manager.
To contact Earth, DSOC needs some support: First, the ground-based telescope sends a laser beam into space, which the experiment aboard NASA’s space probe uses to target its target on Earth. Only then will communication begin.
Optical communication should make high-resolution data from Mars possible
The NASA project aims to demonstrate the preservation of high-bandwidth data transmission over various distances from Earth. In the future, the technology will enable “scientific information, high-resolution images and video streams to support humanity’s next big step: sending humans to Mars,” said Trudy Curtis, NASA’s technology demonstration manager.
The DSOC experiment over the next two years is designed to test data transmission rates ten to hundreds of times greater than the most advanced radio frequency systems currently used by spacecraft. According to NASA. This is intended to benefit future exploration missions and enable higher-resolution scientific instruments.
The new communication option should enable human exploration of space
“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, excitedly said, “More data means more discoveries.”
Optical communications over shorter distances, such as in Earth orbit or from Earth to the Moon, have already been tested through space travel. Compared with testing in deep space, application at short distances has a clear advantage: it is so fast that the target of the laser beam barely moves. During the first test on November 14, the laser took only about 50 seconds to travel from the spacecraft to the receiver. But the distances are increasing and so is the time it takes for the laser beam to reach its target.
The laser will soon need 20 minutes from the space probe to the receiver
At the farthest point of the Psyche space probe from Earth, the laser beam will need about 20 minutes to reach its target. During this time, the space probe continued to move and the Earth also continued to rotate. These movements must be taken into account when communicating, which is not an easy task. (unpaid invoice)
Automated assistance was used in writing this article by the editorial team. The article was carefully examined by editor Tanya Banner before publication.
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