NASA has smashed its record for transmitting data to and from the moon. Now, it boasts a frankly amazing 622Mbps transfer speed to the rock that circles our little planet.
The agency is able to achieve that using lasers — instead of radio waves — to transmit data between its ground station in New Mexico and a spacecraft that's orbiting the moon, some 385,000km away. Part of the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, the agency was also able to upload error-free data to the LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) spacecraft at a rate of 20Mbps.
It beats previous attempts to send data through space using similar techniques, in particular one earlier this year which saw NASA beam the Mona Lisa into space at a rather paltry 300 bits per second. The new success of the LLCD marks a major milestone in space communications: NASA has previously relied on radio frequency data links, but they're not able to carry the quantities of data that the agency will require in the future.
So, while the LLC is currently a proof of concept, it's hoped it will see real service soon. "We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon," explained Badri Younes, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation. And frankly, when internet on the moon is faster than some home connections, you know the future had arrived. [NASA via The Verge]