Houston, We Have Netflix: High Speed Internet Is Coming To The Moon
In this modern age, no matter how exciting of a journey you're on, it's hard to feel fully complete without a decent wifi connection and internet access. I mean, how else are you going to keep in touch with everyone and stay up to date on the latest news? In order to guarantee that even space travelers don't miss out on this 21st century necessity, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory have developed a data communication technology that will enable astronauts to transfer data and stream high definition videos through a broadband network.
At the CLEO Conference in San Jose next month, the MIT team will present an overview of how this laser based communication uplink between the Moon and Earth performs when in orbit. But it's hard to imagine the team will prove to be anything other than a crowd-pleaser when they announce the numbers behind their research. Last year the team's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), boasted an impressive long-range download rate of 622MB per second, while the team were also able to successfully send data from the Earth to the Moon at a highly impressive rate of 19.44mb per second, beating the previous transmission speed record by a mind-boggling factor of 4,800.
"Communicating at high data rates from Earth to the moon with laser beams is challenging because of the 400,000-kilometer distance spreading out the light beam," said MIT's Mark Stevens. It's doubly difficult going through the atmosphere because turbulence can bend light—causing rapid fading and dropouts of the signal at the receiver".
To overcome these issues, ground terminals have been set up in White Sands, New Mexico under a mix of intense light and dark conditions. The team has used four separate telescopes which each use laser feeds to send information coded as pulses of invisible infrared light, sending the uplink signal to the moon. With four telescopes, the team are able to increase the chances that one of the beams will be able to successfully connect with the satellite receiver which orbits the moon.
With further development, the LLCD design could be ideal for keeping astronauts plugged in while they're on both near-Earth and Lagrangian missions. However, the team believes that the technology will soon be adapted so that it can be used on deep-space missions to Mars and other planetary bodies such as Europa and Enceladus. So, for all those future astronauts out there, it may just be that those deep space missions you always dreamed of just got a little bit more interesting with the potential for high speed internet at your fingertips no matter where you are in the solar system.