Scientists from MIT and NASA recently demonstrated the new Wi-Fi connectivity on the moon, and it’s faster than the service that most of us get here on Earth! Given that there hasn’t been a human on the lunar surface since 1972, the question remains: why?
Until now, NASA’s space communications system has relied on radio waves, but data loads are becoming so great that this system is losing effectiveness. The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) was a short-term project designed to demonstrate how a system of short-pulse lasers and satellites could transmit data between the moon and Earth. The results clocked in at a factor of 4,800 times faster than the best the previous system could offer, just as they had hoped.
The project achieved a download rate of a staggering 622 megabits per second (Mbps). It also demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps. Not bad for a signal traveling 239,000 miles (384,633 kilometers). These speeds offer the potential for “increased image resolution and 3-D video transmission from deep space,” states NASA’s press release.
In order to combat the issues of signal fade and light bending in the earth’s atmosphere, the LLCD relies on a set of four telescopes based at a ground station in New Mexico. Each telescope transmits coded data in pulses of infrared light. The four separate signals increase the chances of something hitting the target, which is a receiver on a satellite orbiting the moon. The signal is then transmitted on to the moon through a series of optical and electronic pulses. The team tested out the system under many varying atmospheric conditions, always with success.
The team naturally hopes the now-proven technology will be taken up by future missions, and they will present their findings at the CLEO Conference 2014, on June 9, in San Jose.
Images by NASA