Interplanetary internet: Nasa tests out space communication system by firing lasers at the moon

Nasa hopes the technology will one day allow it to broadcast 3D video from other planets - and let astronauts keep up with their favourite TV shows.

Firing lasers at the moon may seem a little harsh - but NASA says it could lead to a whole new way to communicate in space.

If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping to another planet but still being able to watch the football on a Saturday afternoon, then NASA's latest mission could be good news.

3D TV from Mars

The US space agency has revealed that by firing lasers at the moon, it has been able to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

Called the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), it’s NASA’s first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves.

The agency hopes it could eventually lead to an interplanetary internet to keep in touch with astronauts.

The LLCD system uses lasers mounted on the outside of the a probe to send back bytes to Earth, where base stations in the US and Spain can pick up its signals. 

It has also demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.

"LLCD is the first step on our roadmap toward building the next generation of space communication capability," said Badri Younes, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation.

"We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon."

[Source: NASA]

NASA’s need for speed

Since NASA first ventured into space, it has relied on radio frequency (RF) communication. However, RF is reaching its limit as demand for more data capacity continues to increase.

The development and deployment of laser communications will enable NASA to extend communication capabilities such as increased image resolution and 3-D video transmission from deep space.