NASA on Monday introduced it had used a state-of-the-art laser communication system on a spaceship 19 million miles (31 million kilometres) away from Earth — to ship a high-definition cat video.
The 15-second meow-vie that includes an orange tabby named Taters is the primary to be streamed from deep house and demonstrates it is attainable to transmit the higher-data-rate communications wanted to assist complicated missions reminiscent of sending people to Mars.
The video was beamed to Earth utilizing a laser transceiver on the Psyche probe, which is journeying to the primary asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to discover a mysterious metal-rich object. When it despatched the video, the spaceship was 80 occasions the space between the Earth and the Moon.
We simply streamed the primary ultra-HD video delivered to you through laser from deep house. And it is a video of Taters, a tabby cat.
— NASA (@NASA) December 19, 2023
The encoded near-infrared sign was acquired by the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, and from there despatched to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California.
“One of many targets is to show the power to transmit broadband video throughout hundreds of thousands of miles. Nothing on Psyche generates video information, so we normally ship packets of randomly generated check information,” mentioned Invoice Klipstein, the tech demo’s undertaking supervisor at JPL.
“However to make this vital occasion extra memorable, we determined to work with designers at JPL to create a enjoyable video, which captures the essence of the demo as a part of the Psyche mission.”
House missions have historically relied on radio waves to ship and obtain information, however working with lasers can improve the info price by 10 to 100 occasions.
– Large pounce for catkind –
The ultra-HD video took 101 seconds to ship to Earth on the system’s most bit price of 267 megabits per second — sooner than most house broadband connections.
“In truth, after receiving the video at Palomar, it was despatched to JPL over the web, and that connection was slower than the sign coming from deep house,” mentioned Ryan Rogalin, the undertaking’s receiver electronics lead at JPL.
So why a cat video? First, there’s the historic connection, mentioned JPL. When American curiosity in tv started rising within the Nineteen Twenties, a statue of Felix the Cat was broadcast to function a check picture.
And whereas cats could not declare the title of man’s greatest buddy, few can dispute their number-one place relating to web movies and meme tradition.
Uploaded earlier than launch, the clip exhibits Tabby, the pet of a JPL worker, chasing a laser mild on a sofa, with check graphics overlayed. These embody Psyche’s orbital path and technical details about the laser and its information bit price.
Whereas laser transmission has been demonstrated in low Earth orbit and as distant because the Moon, the Psyche mission is the primary time it has been deployed in deep house. Aiming a laser beam from hundreds of thousands of miles away requires extraordinarily exact “pointing,” a serious technical hurdle engineering groups needed to clear up.
The know-how demonstration even must compensate for the truth that within the time it takes for mild to journey from the spacecraft to Earth, each the probe and the planet may have moved — so the uplink and downlink lasers want to regulate for the change accordingly.
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