NASA received a laser-beamed message from 16 million kilometers away, signifying a significant breakthrough in deep space communication.
The communication was facilitated by a laser transceiver onboard the Psyche spacecraft, currently on a two-year mission headed for the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Psyche will travel about 3.6 billion kilometers over six years to explore a metal asteroid within the main asteroid belt.
The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology on Psyche conducted this groundbreaking experiment in high-bandwidth laser communications.
The milestone, termed "first light," occurred on November 14 when DSOC successfully transmitted and received its initial data set.
The laser transceiver of DSOC connected with a powerful uplink laser beacon at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Table Mountain Observatory and directed its downlink laser to Caltech’s observatory 130 kilometers away.
Trudy Kortes, director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA, highlighted the significance of achieving "first light" as a critical milestone towards enabling higher-data-rate communications for sending scientific information, high-definition imagery, and streaming video.
This advancement in deep space communication could support future endeavors such as sending humans to Mars.
Psyche's mission includes a fly-by around Mars, and ongoing tests will refine and improve the innovative communication method during the mission.
The success of this experiment opens possibilities for revolutionizing deep space missions by enhancing communication capabilities over vast distances.