The first tests of a laser communication system by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have far surpassed the agency's expectations.
A NASA lunar probe recently began a month-long test of a laser communication system that could eventually become an outer space Internet. "It's been beyond what we expected," says NASA's Don Cornwell. "We obviously expected it would work well, but this is even better...everything going better than we thought it would. We're running these systems error-free."
Cornell says the laser communications system could form the building blocks of an outerspace Internet. "This is the beginning of that," he says. "I think we could have that with delay tolerant networking."
NASA hopes to use similar systems for faster satellite communications and deep space communications with robots and human exploration crews in the future. Two-way laser communications systems can deliver six times more data with 25 percent less power than the best radio systems currently in use today, and weigh half as much, Cornwell notes.
"Oh, it's going to enable a lot of things," he says, "but the big benefit is you can send back more data from wherever you are."
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