The Earth has received a laser-beamed message from 10 million miles away.

We'll want to spread the World Wide Web across the galaxy eventually, and NASA today demonstrated a vital piece of technology that could assist, beaming communications via laser across a distance of about 16 million kilometers, or 10 million miles.

This is around 40 times farther than the Moon is from Earth, and it is the first time optical communications have been delivered over such a long distance. 

Traditionally, radio waves have been used to communicate with distant spacecraft; however, higher frequencies of light, such as near infrared, offer an increase in bandwidth and thus a significant improvement in communication speed.

If we're going to be able to broadcast high-definition video transmissions to and from Mars without considerable delay, this is a step in the right direction.

The project is part of NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC), and the successful establishing of the communications link is referred to as "first light." 

We all rely on comparable technology integrated into optical fibers for our ground-based, high-speed communications, but it's been adapted for use in deep space to improve on existing methods of returning data to Earth. Engineers can readily transfer infrared light waves in laser form since it is infrared light. This does not speed up the light, but it does tidy and confine its beam to a tight path. 

This takes significantly less power than radio wave scattering and is more difficult to intercept. That doesn't make it an easy task. The photons released by the laser are encoded with data bits, which necessitates the use of a number of heavy-duty devices, including a superconducting high-efficiency detector array, to prepare the information for transmission and translate it at the other end. Another difficulty is getting the system to adapt its placement configuration in real time. 

The laser photons took around 50 seconds to go from spaceship to telescope in this newest test, and both are speeding through space at the same time. The laser transceiver used to make the link is aboard the Psyche spacecraft, which is on a two-year technology demonstration mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It made contact with the Hale Telescope at California's Palomar Observatory.  

Because Psyche is slated to fly by Mars, experiments will continue to be conducted to enhance and perfect this revolutionary near-infrared laser communication technique, ensuring that it is as fast and trustworthy as it needs to be.  

"It was a formidable challenge, and we have a lot more work to do, but for a short time, we were able to transmit, receive, and decode some data," says Meera Srinivasan, DSOC operations head at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

9 Nail trends that are set to dominate in 2024