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Laser Broadband on the Moon?

Jun 03, 2014 10:20 AM EDT
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The Moon may actually have one of the fastest broadband connections in the universe. NASA is due to present the findings of its Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), a project that showed the success of their attempts to "beam" a broadband connection to the Moon with lasers.

Last October and earlier this year, NASA, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), completed several test runs of an exceptionally fast communication system that can transmit information all the way to the Moon using powerful laser beams. Now, the results of this demonstration will be presented to experts and the general public next week.

"This will be the first time that we present both the implementation overview and how well it actually worked," Mark Stevens of MIT Lincoln Laboratory said in a statement.

"The on-orbit performance was excellent and close to what we'd predicted, giving us confidence that we have a good understanding of the underlying physics," he added.

The LLCD broke several records last year after transmitting data over 384,633 kilometers between the Moon and Earth at a download rate of 622 megabits per second. That's far faster than any of the high-end radio frequency communication devices currently being used by NASA, and also likely faster than any private wifi or broadband internet connection in North America.

MIT's Don Boroson, who led the Lincoln laboratory research team designing the communication system, answered a few question about the practicality of the demonstration project in a recent Q&A session.

"It is generally agreed that present-day science and exploration missions to deep space are constrained by the amount of data they can get back to Earth," he explained. "It has been known for years that laser communications have the potential to deliver much higher data rates and use smaller space terminals than radio-based systems. But it has been an elusive goal to bring laser communications techniques and systems to the point where they can actually deliver on their promises."

Until now. Boronson explained that the LLCD's success should establish a precedent for this new technology, making NASA more "comfortable" using the helpful technology in future missions.

NASA and the MIT team will present the LLCD results at the CLEO laser technology conference to be held in California on June 9.

You can learn more about the LLCD at the official NASA site.

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