This week, NASA’s prototype for a new, laser communication system transmitted data between the moon and New Mexico at a download rate of 622 megabits per second.
It turns out that NASA is still reliant on old-fashioned radio waves to talk to its ever more advanced space equipment. And it’s looking to change that.
This week, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) used a pulsed laser beam to transmit data between the moon and New Mexico at a download rate of 622 megabits per second. That’s a record-breaking download rate between the Earth and its moon, some 239,000 miles apart, and one that NASA says heralds a future of high-speed connection between Earth and space.
A megabit is about the equivalent of 65,000 words in plaintext, or about a third of the length of "Moby Dick." A decent cable broadband connection will deliver about 15 megabits per second.
NASA’s space technologies are more powerful than ever before, and the agency is asking for more from them, including high-resolution images, 3D movies, and huge datasets. What’s stopping the agency from getting what it wants, though, are the radio waves.