Who needs radios when you have LASERS?! - MyMoon

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WHO NEEDS RADIOS WHEN YOU HAVE LASERS?!

Besides learning about the Lunar atmosphere, LADEE’s goals also included experiments to demonstrate new spacecraft communication techniques.

Currently, most spacecrafts use the radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to communicate with the Earth. However, radio is not very ideal to transfer large amounts of data quickly. Plus, the power of these signals decrease over large distances, so radio may not be very ideal as we send out spacecrafts to larger distances. Already, we require very large radio telescopes to be able to detect signals from the Voyager 1 spacecraft, the furthest spacecraft sent out from the Earth.

We can get around these limitations by using optical lasers! Lasers are pretty awesome as is, but when you consider their advantages they become very practical too. Operating at optical wavelengths, which are shorter than radio wavelengths, allows sending more data. Plus, because lasers make tight beams, they don’t lose as much power over long distances. Both aspects are extremely helpful for fast and reliable spacecraft communications.

Just recently, engineers and scientists at NASA used optical lasers and the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) onboard LADEE to help set a new record for data transmission to the Moon. Over the 239,000 miles to the Moon, they were able to achieve download rates of 622 Mbps and upload rates of 20 Mbps!

So while LADEE is helping us get a better understanding of what makes up the lunar atmosphere, it is also laying down very crucial groundwork for future spacecraft missions, both robotic and manned. I mean, how much more awesome could living on the Moon be if you could also get high speed internet while you’re there?

COMMUNITY COMMENTS:

Dennis M J M.

Sunday Oct-27-2013

neat article, I'd been seeing laser download rates popping up in my news feeds lately, I'm happy to hear they are coming from the LADEE project.

I think communications infrastructure is important to sustainable en-mass spacefaring. This sort of system seems much better suited to inter-planetary communications than radio for many reasons, not least of which is security and speed.

I would have reservations about a year long mission with spotty internets. :P


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