NASA has streamed a high definiton video of a cat from deep space to Earth — a distance of almost 20 million miles away — using laser technology.
It marks the first time NASA has ever streamed a video using a laser which is poetically of a cat named Taters chasing a laser.
The experiment was part of NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications done on a flight laser transceiver which it hopes will one day be used to transmit data from far-flung places of the solar system such as Mars.
The 15-second video of Taters was encoded in a near-infrared laser and beamed from the Psyche spacecraft to the Hale Telescope at the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatory. The Psyche probe is currently journeying to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to explore a mysterious metal-rich object.
At the moment it broadcast the video, the spaceship was 19 million miles from Earth — 80 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Lasers can send data 10 to 100 times the speed of the traditional radio wave system NASA typically uses. Despite the vast distances involved, it only took 101 seconds for the laser to reach Earth.
“One of the goals is to demonstrate the ability to transmit broadband video across millions of miles. Nothing on Psyche generates video data, so we usually send packets of randomly generated test data,” says Bill Klipstein, the tech demo’s project manager at JPL.
“But 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.”
The video was received by the telescope on December 11 and it was streamed live at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The data was transmitted at a rate of 267 megabits per second, comparable to rates on Earth. But Dr. Abhijit Biswas, the project technologist, urged caution.
“This is the first step,” Biswas tells The New York Times. “There’s still significant requirements for ground infrastructure and things like that to take something that’s kind of a proof of concept to transform it into something that’s operational and reliable.”
Perhaps one day, PetaPixel readers on Mars might be getting all their photography-related/ news beamed from Earth via laser.