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NASA says first space Internet test 'beyond expectations'

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 23, 2013
Laser communications could replace radio for future robotic and human space missions

He added that in their initial tests, scientists have already been able to stream high-definition video from the Earth to the spacecraft and then have it sent back to Earth.

"We could send 30 channels of HD video down from the spacecraft," said Cornwell. "For example, you could do telepresence with this. Future missions to the moon or asteroids will have astronauts. They may need to see a doctor or need instructions on how to fix something and they could do it in HD video."

Using laser communications, a robotic rover on Mars could send back high-resolution video of what it's finding on the Red Planet.

Mars is 1,000 times farther away from Earth than the moon is, but there's been nothing so far suggesting the laser system couldn't work from that kind of distance.

"Radio communications are basically tapped out," he said. "Radio communications from Mars -- the best that's been sent is 6 megabits per second on its best day when the planets are close together. But it's generally much less than that. Laser communications from Mars to Earth could carry 250 megabits per second."

In 2017, NASA is expected to launch a laser communications relay demonstration, which is expected to run tests from Earth's orbit for three to five years.

Launched in early September, LADEE's primary mission is to study the moon and its atmosphere. Using three instruments to collect data about the chemical makeup of the lunar atmosphere and variations in its composition, the probe also will capture and analyze dust particles it finds in the moon's atmosphere.

Scientists hope the information will help them better understand Mercury, asteroids and the moons orbiting other planets.


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