The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently used laser technology to transmit a cat video from 19 million miles in space.
According to a press release by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), NASA’s recent Deep Space Optical Communications experiment transmitted the video on Dec. 11 from 19 million miles away in space, which is roughly 80 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. NASA explained that the experiment is part of NASA’s goal to stream “very high-bandwidth video and other data from deep space” in order to aid future space exploration missions.
“This accomplishment underscores our commitment to advancing optical communications as a key element to meeting our future data transmission needs,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said. “Increasing our bandwidth is essential to achieving our future exploration and science goals, and we look forward to the continued advancement of this technology and the transformation of how we communicate during future interplanetary missions.”
NASA’s press release explained that the experiment involved the transmission of a 15-second video through a “flight laser transceiver.” The video’s signal only took 101 seconds to transmit to Earth, despite the record distance.
“Capable of sending and receiving near-infrared signals, the instrument beamed an encoded near-infrared laser to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, where it was downloaded,” NASA’s press release stated. “Each frame from the looping video was then sent ‘live’ to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the video was played in real time.”
Bill Klipstein, JPL’s project manager for the technology demonstration, noted that one of the goals of the experiment was to “demonstrate the ability to transmit broadband video across millions of miles.”
NASA explained that the laser communications demonstration was launched as part of the Psyche mission on Oct. 13. The technology is designed to “transmit data from deep space at rates 10 to 100 times greater than the state-of-the-art radio frequency systems used by deep space missions today.”
NASA added that the technology demonstration “paves the way” for the future communication of scientific information, images, and videos that will aid future missions to Mars.
The video that was transmitted through space features a JPL employee’s pet cat named Taters chasing a laser pointer with multiple graphics overlayed on the video. NASA’s press release noted that the video graphics demonstrate multiple features from the tech demonstration, including Palomar’s telescope dome, Psyche’s orbital path, and information pertaining to the laser.
“To make this significant event more memorable, we decided to work with designers at JPL to create a fun video, which captures the essence of the demo as part of the Psyche mission,” Klipstein said.