NASA sends puuurr-fect cat video from deep space via laser

19th Dec 2023
NASA sends puuurr-fect cat video from deep space via laser

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications experiment streamed an ultra-high-definition video from a record-breaking distance of 19 million miles (31 million kilometers) on the night of 19th December. The demo transmitted a 15-second test video via an advanced device known as a flight laser transceiver. The video signal reached the Earth in 101 seconds; the maximum data transfer rate was 267 (Mbps). Among other things, the transmission involved a cat video.

What did the video showcase?

During this significant communication event, the video showcased Taters, the red cat owned by a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) staff member. The video also adds several features from the tech demo, such as Psyche’s orbital path, the dome of the Palomar telescope, and technical information about its laser and data rates. Taters’ heart rate, color and breed are also shown.

The video, originally uploaded to the $1.2 billion Psyche asteroid probe before its October launch, was transmitted on 11th December using a flight laser transceiver. This technology beamed the video as an encoded near-infrared laser to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory.

Details of the Psyche space mission

NASA launched the Psyche space mission on 13th October. Its objective is to investigate the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. Scientists believe it to be the revealed core of a primitive planet.

Supervised by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Psyche spacecraft utilizes solar-powered Hall-effect thrusters for propulsion. Additionally, it holds the distinction of being the inaugural mission to employ laser optical communications outside the Earth-Moon system.

What is asteroid 16 Psyche?

Scheduled to commence its orbit around the asteroid in 2029, the mission aims to investigate the origins of planetary cores. The designated asteroid, 16 Psyche, holds the distinction of being the heaviest known M-type asteroid. It anticipates to offer valuable insights into the processes of planetary formation and differentiation.

The meaning of Tater’s video transmission for future space communication

This event is grounded in NASA’s ongoing efforts to enhance communication capabilities in space exploration. Sending Tater’s video highlights the ability to transmit high-bandwidth data from deep space, a crucial capability for upcoming human missions beyond Earth’s orbit. This technological progress signifies a noteworthy stride in enhancing communication for interplanetary missions, aligning with NASA’s broader goals in space exploration and research.

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