The moon gets Wi-Fi

The speed of the Internet on the moon is 19.44 megabits per second, rivaling mobile download speeds on Earth.
By Brooks Hays  |  Updated June 3, 2014 at 2:33 PM
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WHITE SANDS, N.M., June 3 (UPI) -- The next astronaut to visit the moon will be able to check and send emails, and maybe even live tweet the whole experience. And even if the moon won't host live astronauts for some time, it now boasts wireless internet.

Researchers at NASA and MIT have managed to beam a Wi-Fi signal up the moon using telescopes and lasers. The signal is sent from a ground terminal at a NASA test facility in White Sands, New Mexico.

The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, or LLCD, sent a Wi-Fi signal translated into laser pulses and fed through four telescopes some 238,900 miles through space, where the pulses of infrared light were received by LADEE, NASA's moon-orbiting satellite.

It's quite the feat.

"Communicating at high data rates from Earth to the moon with laser beams is challenging because of the 400,000-kilometer distance spreading out the light beam," Mark Stevens, a researcher at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, said of the challenge. "It's doubly difficult going through the atmosphere, because turbulence can bend light -- causing rapid fading or dropouts of the signal at the receiver."

But they succeeded, and the moon now has wireless internet download speeds that rival Earthling mobile devices or the WI-Fi at the corner coffee shop. Before NASA realizes, the moon will be littered with freelancers buying a single latte and staying all day.

While researchers were able to transmit data from the moon to Earth at 622 megabits per second, faster than any radio frequency system, transmitting from Earth to the moon is a bit slower at 19.44 megabits per second. That's 4,800 times faster than the fastest radio communication currently used in space. The typical 4G LTE download speed fluctuates between 15 and 25 megabits per second.

Researchers will explain the details of their method at the upcoming Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics being held June 8-13 in San Jose, California.

So while the next Buzz Aldrin is posting space selfies to Instragram, Earthlings will still be holding their phone up the sky, trying to find that extra coverage bar.

Topics: Buzz Aldrin
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