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Laser transmission hits Earth from 140 million miles away — but it's not aliens
Image credit: YouTube screenshot

Laser transmission hits Earth from 140 million miles away — but it's not aliens

Earth recently received a laser transmission from a record-breaking 140 million miles away. The development could present major consequences for the future of space travel, according to a recent report by NASA.

While this transmission seems like it could be extraterrestrial in origin, it is not. The transmission was sent from NASA's Psyche spacecraft, which is located around 1.5 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

This breakthrough was achieved by using a Psyche feature called Deep Space Optical Communications, per the New York Post. The primary objective of the project is to investigate the metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche in the hopes of discovering gems.

The asteroid is expected to be around four billion miles away.

Meera Srinivasan — the project's operations lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California — said: "We downlinked about 10 minutes of duplicated spacecraft data during a pass on April 8."

“Until then, we’d been sending test and diagnostic data in our downlinks from Psyche. This represents a significant milestone for the project by showing how optical communications can interface with a spacecraft’s radio frequency comms system.”

The Post mentioned that NASA wanted to demonstrate the potential for laser communications to be carried out across large distances in space, which is 10 to 100 times what is currently available.

The development of this technology could have a large impact on the future of human space travel.

NASA stated:

NASA’s optical communications demonstration has shown that it can transmit test data at a maximum rate of 267 megabits per second (Mbps) from the flight laser transceiver’s near-infrared downlink laser — a bit rate comparable to broadband internet download speeds.

That was achieved on Dec. 11, 2023, when the experiment beamed a 15-second ultra-high-definition video to Earth from 19 million miles away (31 million kilometers, or about 80 times the Earth-Moon distance). The video, along with other test data, including digital versions of Arizona State University’s Psyche Inspired artwork, had been loaded onto the flight laser transceiver before Psyche launched last year.

The Psyche spacecraft is expected to move by Mars — humanity's next great mission — in 2026, and then it will continue its journey to its final destination, 16 Psyche, by 2029.

The spacecraft will ultimately aim to map out the rest of the surrounding region and possibly discover precious metals on 16 Psyche.

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