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Friday, September 17, 2004

Lasers to Be Used for Interplanetary Communication

Helium-Neon Laser
Helium-Neon Laser
Credit: Jorgen Stadje
The 2009 Mars Telecommunications Orbiter, the first spacecraft ever to be sent to another planet for the express purpose of facilitating communication between other missions, will utilize a powerful infrared laser in addition to traditional radio links for communication with Earth. Capable of transmitting a massive 30 Mbits/sec, depending on the relative positions of Earth and Mars, the laser will eliminate bottlenecks in data transmission that occur when missions on Mars collect much more data than they can send back. This rate is in comparison to the current high of 128 kbits/sec set by the Odyssey.

Not all is great about this new system however. Although it has the potential to eliminate the loss of incredible amounts of data, it requires precise positioning and can be blocked by something as simple as a cloud. Also, it worries astronomers that use these wavelengths to explore the skies. Were this technology to grow more widespread, it could result in the elimination of the usefulness of these crucial frequencies.

(More info: New Scientist)

- posted by Brian @ 17:28 EST