NASA's Psyche spacecraft uses laser to send engineering data 140 million miles across space
· May 2, 2024 ·

Some exciting space tech news for the nerds among us who are interested in planetary colonization:

Riding aboard NASA's Psyche spacecraft, the agency's Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration continues to break records. While the asteroid-bound spacecraft doesn't rely on optical communications to send data, the new technology has proven that it's up to the task. After interfacing with the Psyche's radio frequency transmitter, the laser communications demo sent a copy of engineering data from over 140 million miles (226 million kilometers) away, 1½ times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

NASA be shooting those lasers full of data like:

(Only they did it without destroying a planet, you understand.)

Here's a visual of the path along which the data were transmitted:

Elon is doubtlessly looking at all of this with a great deal of excitement.

The data transmission "provides a glimpse into how spacecraft could use optical communications in the future," NASA said, which would enable "higher-data-rate communications of complex scientific information as well as high-definition imagery and video in support of humanity's next giant leap," namely colonizing Mars.

This isn't the first time NASA has done a test like this. The space agency used the same equipment last year to beam a cat video down to Earth:

Yet the much greater distance of the spacecraft last month demonstrated that relatively high rates of transmission are still possible even at huge distances, with the experiment having "surpassed all of our expectations," one manager said.

Encouraging stuff. Can't wait to bring those cat memes to the Martian surface!

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