With NASA's upcoming mission to Mars due for 2030, the way the space agency communicates with its astronauts is currently undergoing a major upgrade.
Mostly having used radio waves to communicate between Space and Earth, NASA is now looking into using lasers instead.
The Deep Space Network (DSN) is receiving a new dish for improved laser signals.
The new antenna dish
Over many decades, NASA has used radio waves to send messages between astronauts up in Space and crew down on Earth. However, with the space agency's impending Mars mission, it's now working on a high-speed communication channel that is infallible. Something that'll be invaluable for astronauts based around 40 million miles away from Earth.
In preparation for long-term missions on the Moon and on Mars, NASA has begun to strengthen its Deep Space Network!https://t.co/LDMAcfT5Nn#moon2024#moon#space#spacehabitat#artemis#nasa#spacex#blueorigin#ula#humanspaceflight#spaceresources#lunaroutpost#MAPP— Lunar Outpost (@LunarOutpostInc) February 13, 2020
The widespread belief within NASA is that laser beams will do the trick.
As beams with infrared lights, lasers are powerful. They can travel further distances in Space, with far stronger power than radio waves.
Suzanne Dodd, director of the program, said "Lasers can increase your data rate from Mars by about 10 times what you get from radio."
That's an impressive upgrade.
GROUNDBREAKING on the new dish for the Deep Space Network today! The DSN is how we communicate to our robotic explorers in deep space. As you can tell, it’s quite windy in the CA desert, just let the hair go crazy! What an incredible day! @NASAJPL@DeepSpaceNet@NASASCaNpic.twitter.com/b5tulnCfjG— Marina Jurica (@MJuricaCBS47) February 12, 2020
Construction on a 112-foot dish already began this week in Goldstone, California. Eventually, there'll be other dishes surrounding this one as part of the DSN project.
"The DSN is Earth's one phone line to our two Voyager spacecraft — both in interstellar space — all our Mars missions, and the New Horizons spacecraft that is now far past Pluto," said Larry James, deputy director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.