NASA broadcast a cat video from nearly 20 million miles distant, or 40 round-trip flights to the moon, using laser transmission.
At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, NASA engineers gathered nervously to watch a cat video, speculating as to whether it would be in the perfect high resolution they had hoped for.
It was, much to their relief. The first-ever high-definition video broadcast from the furthest distance ever was 18.6 million miles distant, or about 80 times the distance from Earth to the Moon. It featured the cat Taters, owned by a lab employee.
The demonstration was a component of the Deep Space Optical Communications experiment conducted by NASA, which aims to enhance the communication infrastructure beyond Earth’s orbit. For instance, greater data transmission over longer distances is required if people are to go to Mars. This demonstration was a step closer to making it possible.
Dr. Abhijit Biswas stated that this would be similar to the capabilities you would want to have if you were sending an astronaut to the surface of Mars or something similar, the project technologist. You ought to communicate with them on a regular basis.
NASA‘s Psyche probe, which was launched on October 13 with the intention of studying an asteroid with the same name, assisted with the demonstration. Instead of utilizing conventional radio frequencies, the DSOC experiment is utilizing laser communications in an effort to send massive amounts of data more quickly across longer distances. Taters may be seen pursuing a laser pointer in the video. In 1928, television transmissions were tested using a statue of the cartoon character Felix the Cat.
The 267 megabits per second of sent data are similar to rates commonly observed on Earth, which range from 100 to 300 megabits per second. However, Biswas advised prudence in light of the demonstration’s outcomes.
He declared, “This is the first step.” “To take something that’s kind of a proof of concept and turn it into something that’s operational and reliable, there are still a lot of requirements for ground infrastructure and stuff like that.”
A flight laser transceiver, one of several new pieces of gear being used for the first time, was used to transmit the footage. Three components make up the DSOC system: a ground laser transmitter located around 90 minutes away from the laboratory, and a ground laser receiver located at the Palomar Observatory in Southern California. The transceiver was deployed on board the Psyche spacecraft.
The project’s operations lead, Dr. Meera Srinivasan, remarked, “That you’re able to do all that in the end is a little mind-blowing right there.”
For decades, Biswas and Srinivasan have been developing this technology with the help of other NASA experts. Expanding the usage of optical communications technology, which was already in use on satellites orbiting far closer to Earth, was the main goal. Prior to the Psyche mission, the team encountered difficulties at first due to an inadequate signal. In order to increase the capabilities, NASA created technologies. According to Biswas, deep space is “the new frontier.”
The laser beam was first sent up by the ground transmitter to start the cat video procedure. The goal needed to be exact. The NASA crew had preloaded the content, so Psyche locked onto that signal and beamed it back down to the receiver. A clear night with no clouds was required for the transmission to function and provide a suitable line of sight.
“There are numerous small steps,” stated Biswas. “Everyone must align at the appropriate moment. Since we’re doing it for the first time, that’s the scary part. There is no prior instance of this. It’s not like, “Oh, we know that will happen if you do this.” We’re making our way through each of these things.”
“And once it all works, it seems like it’s so easy,” he continued. Why did we worry at all initially?
The DSOC project’s goal now is to push them to the limit. The NASA experts anticipate being able to communicate from 186 million miles away, which is ten times farther, by the end of June.