Putting our traditional Earth-bound Internet providers to shame, NASA set a record this week with an amazingly fast data transmission between the moon and Earth. This is the basis for what could one day become a high-speed interplanetary Internet connection.
With this Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), NASA was able to transmit data between the 239,000 miles separating the moon and Earth at 622 Mbps—that’s more than eight times as fast as Verizon’s fastest basic connection and still faster than its fastest fiber-optic plan (which boasts a rate of 500 Mbps).
Since the beginning of space travel, NASA has had to rely on radio frequency to communicate with and send information back home. But lasers can transmit that information much more quickly, despite the distance, to the primary data center in New Mexico. This one was launched as part of the LADEE probe mission at the end of September.
After the success of the temporary LLCD project, NASA now hopes to launch a longer, but still temporary, Laser Communications Relay Demonstration in 2016. This project will use lasers to test out extremely fast Internet connection between space and Earth (this time up to 1.25 Gbps, just beating Google Fiber’s 1 Gbps) but will do so over the course of two years.
If only Neil Armstrong had been able two stream a few Twilight Zone episodes on his way to the moon.