November 21, 2023

Pioneering Probe Transmits Long-Distance Laser Message

NASA has conducted an experiment that may revolutionise how spacecrafts send and receive communications data from astronomical distances.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment involved using a near-infrared laser with encoded data that was fired from the Psyche probe approximately 16 million kilometres away to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in California.

Imagine that: last Tuesday, 14 November, the tech demo enabled “first light” optical data to travel roughly 40 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon to a transceiver over 100 kilometres outside Los Angeles in 50 seconds – the farthest that data has ever travelled to date!

Trudy Kortes, the director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, released a statement regarding DSOC three days later.

“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,” Kortes explained.

The test provided invaluable insights for scientists to fine-tune the process, and may contribute to deep-space communications and exploration, especially when the Psyche spacecraft travels to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in the near future.

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