News 21 November 2023

Earth received a laser-beamed message from 10 million miles away in space this week

21 November 2023

This week, Earth was the recipient of a laser-beamed message from space, which travelled a remarkable 10 million miles to reach us.

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, carrying the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment, has achieved a groundbreaking milestone by beaming the laser message from beyond the Moon, marking a transformative development in spacecraft communication.

The DSOC, positioned approximately 16 million kilometres away – 40 times farther than the Moon – is a two-year tech demonstration aimed at enhancing data transmission.

During its first light on November 14, the DSOC utilised a laser transceiver to send a near-infrared laser with test data to Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in California.

This achievement, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, sets the stage for higher-data-rate communications, vital for future deep space missions, including human exploration of Mars.

Trudy Kortes, director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA HQ, said in a statement, “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.”

The DSOC’s optical communication, using laser beams, allows for significantly increased data transmission rates compared to traditional radio waves, potentially enabling live video streams from Mars and carrying high-resolution science instruments.

While successful, challenges such as precision over longer distances and addressing signal attenuation need further exploration.

This record-breaking demonstration signifies a significant leap in space communication capabilities, opening possibilities for more advanced and efficient data exchange in future space exploration endeavours.

[Image created via MidJourney]