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NASA and ESA To Demonstrate Earth-Moon Laser Communication

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the moobase-needs-youtube dept.

Shark 74

cylonlover writes with this news bite about a cool new ground to space laser communication system from NASA and ESA: "Space communications have relied on radio since the first Sputnik in 1957. It's a mature, reliable technology, but it's reaching its limits. The amount of data sent has increased exponentially for decades and NASA expects the trend to continue. The current communications systems are reaching their limits, so NASA and ESA are going beyond radio as a solution. As part of this effort, ESA has finished tests of part of a new communications system, in preparations for a demonstration in October in which it will receive a laser data download from a NASA lunar orbiter."

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SETI (3, Insightful)

Entropy98 (1340659) | about a year ago | (#44463055)

Maybe this is part of the reason why SETI hasn't picked up anything yet...

Re:SETI (3, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year ago | (#44463537)

Maybe this is part of the reason why SETI hasn't picked up anything yet...

And it explains the focus effect of quasars, they are just intergalactic long distance...
wonder what the plan lock in period is on a supermassive black hole?
Also, who do you call for an unlock at the end of the contract?
If it's the vendor, it may be a bad idea to bug someone that sets up black holes on demand...

Re:SETI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465417)

Oh for fucken the love of ... the last time we used lasers pointed in space we had to deal with the outer limits bellero shield !

ET Laser Home? (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#44463067)

Maybe we will get someone out there.. finally? :)

Re:ET Laser Home? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463125)

It'll be handy for communicating with those Nazis in their moon base.

Re:ET Laser Home? (2)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#44463285)

I first saw the headline as saying "NASA and ESA To Demonstrate Earth-Moon Laser Cannon", before I got my glasses on.
I was thinking this was covered in a Warner Bros. cartoon....

Re:ET Laser Home? (1)

The Snowman (116231) | about a year ago | (#44463391)

It'll be handy for communicating with those Nazis in their moon base.

I have not seen it myself, but I hear the Nazis do have a moon base... Iron Sky [imdb.com] .

NASA (-1, Flamebait)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44463099)

...still needy, after all these years. We know all we need to know about that rock, and we can bounce lasers off drones 'till they vaporize, so this is just another way for NASA to suckle funding off taxpayers.

Re:NASA (4, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#44463157)

Well, considering the number of and resolution of images sent back Mars and the moon and various spacecraft is limited by the amount of time it takes to transmit all that data, and the amount of power it takes to transmit it...this is a no brainer. It's advantages are so blatantly obvious that it's kind of sad you can't see that. Are you sure you belong here?

Re:NASA (5, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#44463187)

Destructively "bouncing" a laser is easy. Just point it in the general direction, and apply power until there's too much extra energy for the target to handle.

Communication is more difficult, because not only do you have to point in exactly the right direction, from far further away (or have ridiculously more power), but you then have to modulate the laser appropriately to transmit data, and do so in such a way that atmospheric or other line-of-sight disturbances won't be too much of a problem, and you have to keep doing it long enough to send all you data through, and ideally even have a matching receiver to pick up the return direction.

Re:NASA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463431)

I'm replying to this high-scoring comment not only because I want to be noticed and get mod points, but because I have expertise and experience in the field.

As long as you know the characteristics of the optical medium, you can with some certainty use techniques similar to these [wikipedia.org] .

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465231)

Despite you being modded up, that is almost completely irrelevant to the issue of long distance optical communication. The issue is how to actually physically generate the light pulses with modulation and direct it efficiently. What encoding you use will be secondary to what your device can physically do, and multiplexing multiple colors would only be relevant if you were going to try to set up multiple laser sources in parallel.

Re:NASA (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#44464323)

We already have laser reflectors on the moon. Left by Apollo 13 or so I believe.
It is regularly used for distance measuring.
It is not really hard to point one laser to lunar and another one from there to earth. A data link is absolutely trivial. Hint: a laser beam going to the moon is widening to roughly 100km diameter. Not hard at all to hold the aim.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465275)

The lasers used for lunar range finding are not really applicable to communication on any reasonable data rate. They use very short pulse lasers, and those lasers are closer 5-10 kilometers wide when they hit the moon. That still represents a 20 million to 1 reduction in laser power that actually reaches a square meter reflector. In the case of the lunar orbiter, its receiver is much smaller than a square meter, and for the return signal, it only has a couple hundred watts to work with in total craft power. Additionally, the hard part is not hitting the orbiter from the ground station, but the aiming in the opposite direction. When you have a couple meter wide telescope to work with, it is a lot easier to aim a well collimated beam a long distance than it is from a much smaller module with less power on the orbiter.

Re:NASA (1)

flargleblarg (685368) | about a year ago | (#44467295)

We already have laser reflectors on the moon. Left by Apollo 13 or so I believe.

Um, Apollo 13 never made it to the Moon.

Apollo 13 article on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#44469139)

True, forgot about that. the first one was set by Apollo 11, the next two by Apollo 14.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Laser_Ranging_experiment [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44469609)

You should at least read an article when you link it: one was left by Apollo 11, 14 and 15 each.

But it'll be limited to the speed of light. Feh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463109)

Why can scientists do something about that?

Re:But it'll be limited to the speed of light. Feh (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44463225)

Why can't scientists do something about that?

My sources tell me that's not going to happen until 2208.

Re: But it'll be limited to the speed of light. Fe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44468823)

TCP was built for Quantum Communication!

Practical problems (1, Redundant)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44463143)

The sharks simply won't stand still while the communication is being done.

When ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463149)

Ill be ok with spending tons of money on space when our sick are taken care of instead of left dying for lack of coverage.
Ill be ok with spending tons of money when the elderly are taken care of properly , same with our war veterans we abandoned.
Ill be ok with it then .. really .. till then it's just shaming us all .

Re:When ... (4, Interesting)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#44463179)

Of all the programs our government spends money on, you pick up NASA? I can see your argument with regard to having a manned space program which costs a great deal more. But this? Especially when it has clear commercial potential. WTF?

Re:When ... (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about a year ago | (#44463435)

Coincidentally, a "space engineer" whose blog I read recently mentioned something similar as a way to generate revenue from the early phase of a lunar mining operation. [wordpress.com] I'm not sure I buy the numbers, but it's an interesting concept:

I can immediately generate revenue from the use of the laser communications system. Utterly secure, 25 gigabits/sec communications with an unhackable data server would easily be worth $150-250m/year in revenue to the U.S. government, based on the cost of the Advanced EHF and other wideband military satellites. The yearly cost to support this is $1-2m dollars, thus my first infrastructure payload for mining is already generating strongly positive cash flow.

Re:When ... (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year ago | (#44474835)

It will be connected to the internet. So i will be anything but Utterly secure.

Re:When ... (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44463487)

Actually, lasers travel through space a lot better than through our thick atmosphere. Moving air, temperature changes, and water vapor all disrupt lasers much more than radio waves. It's only good in short distances or space.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44466589)

Actually, lasers travel through space a lot better than through our thick atmosphere.

Depends on for what purpose, as lasers through air can allow for self-focusing beams a lot easier than in space. Not that such powers and systems are relevant to communication.

Re:When ... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44467507)

In space though, it is the best there is for now.

Re:When ... (2)

Entropy98 (1340659) | about a year ago | (#44463211)

Ill be ok with spending tons of money on space when our sick are taken care of instead of left dying for lack of coverage.
Ill be ok with spending tons of money when the elderly are taken care of properly , same with our war veterans we abandoned.
Ill be ok with it then .. really .. till then it's just shaming us all .

Do you have any idea how much we spend on healthcare and on NASA??

Re:When ... (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44463427)

Ill be ok with spending tons of money on space when our sick are taken care of instead of left dying for lack of coverage. Ill be ok with spending tons of money when the elderly are taken care of properly , same with our war veterans we abandoned. Ill be ok with it then .. really .. till then it's just shaming us all .

Stop spending trillions on "defense" and you can take care of the sick and elderly, educate the young, feed the hungry, pave the roads and repair the bridges., and still have enough left over to explore space.

Re:When ... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#44463759)

Actually, that has little to do with our military spending. The fact is, that we spend a great deal less than Russia and China on a % GDP basis. Our problem is that we are not taxing enough and reagan, Poppa Bush, W, and Obama have ran up a massive debt.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463927)

Partly, it's also largely a consequence of financial freeloading and a rigged market system. It's not that the government has ran up massive debt, it is that banks have created a massive amount of debt and as long as that debt is indestructible, someone has to carry the burden of it.

That is what too big to fail means, it means the debt can't be destroyed when someone fails to pay it, it's just transfered to someone else. When you give some small group of people the limitless ability to create the obligation to pay them money, don't be surprised when everyone is in debt and no one can afford to pay them, because that money doesn't exist anywhere, it can only be paid back by creating more debt.

This is what we get when we use a system that is no longer designed for public interest, but for continual expansion of debt.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465619)

Mod this up please

Re:When ... (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44464411)

We have massive debt because we keep cutting taxes while increasing spending. The majority of the debt Obama put on the books is the iraq war, and a couple of tax cuts used to stimulate the ecomomy.

The problem is we cut taxes, and the economy still wasn't stimulated to grow, so we did it again and again.

Also GDP has no bearing on government spending. the GDP is to government spending as the dow jones index is to your personal wealth. The two only line up very very rarely.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465443)

Federal revenue represented as a percentage of GDP is a useful number, and defense spending is commonly expressed as a percentage of GDP. It's a way of putting these numbers in some relative context. Spending $100 billion on defense means one thing in a $17 trillion dollar economy, and quite another in a $1 trillion economy.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465503)

We are taxed more than enough. Between federal, state, and local, government took one out of every three dollars in this country last year.
  http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/total_2012USrt_14rs1n [usgovernmentrevenue.com]

And you think it's still not enough? That's insane.

The problem is the spending, the spending, and of course the spending. We could also stand to reduce the spending a bit.

Re:When ... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#44467515)

The problem is keeping the promises to spend that our parents and grandparents made. Unfortunately, breaking the promises is also bad.

Re:When ... (0)

CaptQuark (2706165) | about a year ago | (#44463777)

Stop spending trillions on "defense" and you can take care of the sick and elderly, educate the young, feed the hungry, pave the roads and repair the bridges., and still have enough left over to explore space.

Without that money spent on defense, you wouldn't have any sick, elderly, young, hungry, roads, or bridges to worry about.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465123)

This shouldn't be modded down. The world needs to know that there are many people who are brainwashed to believe in the US paranoia propaganda.

Re:When ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465031)

We do not spend tons of money on space, we spend tons of money on defense, that we do not really need.

You could pull all US military bases and operations out of foreign countries and probably cut the DoD budget in half. Technically, we only need to worry about a land invasion from Mexico or Canada (those odds are really low). Anybody else would have to come across the oceans, which we would detect and sail out to meet them.

NASA is about $18B where the DoD is about $600B. Each of those is per year.

The October Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463177)

1 October marks the state of the U.S. Fiscal Year.

This year in particular NASA is keen on Symbolism.

With only an "anticipated" $16 billion dollar budget NASA is on the ropes, has no 'Rope-A-Dope' and is going down to the mat Dazed And Confused.

Even if NASA were, by an act of Magic, afforded a budget of $160 billion dollars, it could not accomplish anything except, tally the money and send out 'thank you' cards to members of Congress.

Since the middle 1980s NASA has been on a hiring binge! The hires are Accountants and Attorneys.

I'll be kind and be blunt.

NASA has NO talent to design anything!

NASA has NO talent to manage anything!

NASA has NO talent in the areas needed to restart nor rebuild a spacecraft! and not even a potted plant.

OH! I see what you're thinking.

Well, JPL is NOT NASA and never was! JPL is JPL!

With the disestablishment of NASA, JPL would still exist!

Time to X NASA.

Awesome! (2)

Rafael Fernandez (2932289) | about a year ago | (#44463205)

TCP/IP with freakin' lasers!

Re:Awesome! (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | about a year ago | (#44463231)

You meant WireSharks with frikkin lasers!

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463449)

TCP/IP with freakin' lasers!

Hmm, actually, no. TCP is a dumb protocol that SPAMs the pipe as soon as a single packet is missing, and keeps spamming until it's received. We shouldn't even use it on Earth, let alone in space. Additionally, I sent this data to slashdot over a laser. It's called: Fiber Optics, ugh.

illuminating (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463207)

I was too lasey to read the article, so it would have been nice if the video was more illuminating, but at least its coherent.

Re:illuminating (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44464197)

I thought it was dazzling.

LAME.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463215)

We've been bouncing lasers off the moon for awhile now. Ohhh but this one will carry DATA! OOOOOO...

Fuck our space program is just downright sad these days...

Fine for streaming movies but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463249)

...you wouldn't want to play games through that connection. Now we just need to establish a film industry... on the Moon.

Which Phase of the Alan Parsons Project is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463329)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei_GZnrr1nw

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463381)

So the ESA wants us to know that we're going to be watched even after we get off this ball. Nice.

tax dollars at work (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#44463599)

we have known for centuries now that you can communicate using light or other visual signals in real time

we have been bouncing a laser off the moon since the late 60's

now, taking those two concepts and combining them, NASA is spending god knows how much time and money to communicate to the moon, WHERE THERE IS NOTHING TO RESPOND

can we please for the love of god end the multimillion dollar experiments that a 12 year old does on instructables?

Re:tax dollars at work (1)

ThreeGigs (239452) | about a year ago | (#44465145)

we have been bouncing a laser off the moon since the late 60's

And receiving back only a few photons out of billions, making any meaningful data transfer impossible, unless you consider 1 bps meaningful.

can we please for the love of god end the multimillion dollar experiments that a 12 year old does on instructables?

Can we please educate people enough so that they understand that shining a light across a room is much easier than detecting it from 250,000 mies away?

Re:tax dollars at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465305)

WHERE THERE IS NOTHING TO RESPOND

Nothing, except the space probes they are trying to better communicate with using smaller, less powerful equipment...

we have been bouncing a laser off the moon since the late 60's,

Lighting something up with a flashlight is a long ways away from communicating at an appreciable data rate.

we have known for centuries now that you can communicate using light or other visual signals in real time

So I guess that means we shouldn't have wasted our time making fiber optic networks. We knew it was possible to communicate with light, so there was no need to actually ever build anything... it is not like they have any actual use just like NASA has no actual use for improved communication speeds with satellites and probes.

Too bad; We should put multiple sats in GEO orbit (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#44463753)

so that we can get laser com from multiple sources. Then simply beam down to earth. I would guess that 10 or more would be needed, but this is cheaper than all of the ground stations that we have set up.

Re:Too bad; We should put multiple sats in GEO orb (1)

websitebroke (996163) | about a year ago | (#44469697)

There are a few reasons it's being done with ground stations right now. This current project we're discussing is a "Demonstration", meaning that the technology has to be proven over several missions, and this is only the first. It's freaking hard to hit a 40 cm spot on the earth, not to mention a 10 cm telescope on a satellite orbiting the moon. My guess is they'll do a TDRS style constellation of satellites when the tech is proven (which I think it will be)

In the near future... (3, Funny)

Psicopatico (1005433) | about a year ago | (#44463767)

...don't look at the moon with your remaining eye.

isnt hughesnet already using this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44463815)

for their "satellite" based internet? slow enough and it sure seems like the latency is high enough (often 3+ sec) for two-way earth-moon routing.

We Are About To Begin Phase 2 (1, Insightful)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about a year ago | (#44463845)

This is the phase where we put a giant "laser" on the Moon. As you know, the Moon rotates around the Earth like so *spins moon globe around earth globe*. When the Moon reaches it's appropriate Lunar alignment, it will destroy Washington DC. You see, I've turned the Moon into what I like to call a "Death Star". Anyway, the key to this is the giant laser. It was invented by the noted Cambridge physicist Dr. Parsons. Therefore we shall call it The Alan Parsons Project

Are you sure you not gonna blow it up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464063)

The moon that is... :P

Lasers and PRISM, too easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464073)

So NSA will build a secret room on the Moon. We need some planet to moon encryption here. Stat!

I'm soo dissapointed about NSA that i've lost the will to write proper comments. [crawls back to bed]

radio reach its limits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464121)

isnt voyager one still senging radio messages from *beyond our galaxy*?

Re:radio reach its limits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44466397)

Voyager probes are still sending data from beyond the solar system (not galaxy), but at a rate below 200 bits / s. The purpose of the optical communication is to provide higher data rates and to possibly lower power requirements.

Rockets and radio. (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about a year ago | (#44464147)

The space faring equivalent of sticks and stones.

Old idea.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464167)

Were finally implementing this? If you don't think this hasn't been figured out for at least 3 decades and just lacked the "mission critical funding" wonder where the 2cnd monolith is?

NSA = Retard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464297)

NSA isnt very bright

A) there has been a reflector on the moon
B) every so often they bunch a laser off it to see how long it takes for the round trip

What they found over the years is the moon is leaving orbit at 4cm a year.

UNLESS ITS ANOTHER LIE to propogate the moon landings were true...

And how long before ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464487)

... somebody uses this for porn?

Just askin'.

How about submarines? (2)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44464563)

This may seem out of left field, but I was recently pondering the efficacy of lasers for submarine communications.

Only the very lowest radio frequencies penetrate a short distance below the surface of the ocean. The broadcasting equipment for those are enormous multi-megawatt monsters which can only transmit a minuscule amount of data, amounting to maybe a sentence per hour.

But with certain wavelengths of lasers, you can get penetration up to ~115 meters.

http://www.laseroptronix.se/techinfo/Waterabsorption.pdf [laseroptronix.se]

Even if the range is less, I'm sure submarine fleets would appreciate the option of laser-based two-way communications with satellites, without needing to surface.

Other than strategically placed buoys, is there even any other option for modernizing submarine communications past our current circa 1960s methods?

Re:How about submarines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44464767)

Cool.

I wish my enemies would use a system like that. It would be a lot easier to target them if they had satellites that lighted up them with a laser.

Re:How about submarines? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44465343)

Probably the most physically challenging aspect, if trying to communicate from submarine to satellite, would be aiming the uplink through the water surface that will be moving quite drastically and changing the angle the beam is refracted. And it is possible to have wave shapes that will make it difficult to get a connection for moments at a time (effectively momentary dead spots), although that could probably be over come with short bursts of communications assuming the first issue was overcome. You would still have weather to deal with too.

But such a system will not have the same discretion as a long wave length radio. The water will be quite diffuse, so other state's satellites will be able to pick up the flashes in either direction. They might not be able to decrypt the message, but it would help pin point submarines. Even if used for one way communications, the satellite would need quite a bit of laser power to hit a wide area and penetrate the water, or would have to spend a lot of time communicating to empty spots to mask actual locations.

Re:How about submarines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44467015)

The Navy has been researching the blue-green laser for submarine communications for decades...

Sharks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44466105)

Sharks with Lasers in SPACE!

VALIS (1)

ikhider (2837593) | about a year ago | (#44467933)

Time for the exegisis.

Fix the title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44469619)

NASA and ESA To Demonstrate Earth-Moon Laser Communication, NSA To Listen In

ftfy

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