Science 2 min read

Mars Mission Will Rely On Laser Communication, Says NASA

SergeyDV /

SergeyDV /

With NASA expanding its crewed missions to new space destinations, it becomes necessary to develop a new Laser communication system.

NASA has depended mostly on radio waves communication since the Explorer 1 Satelite launched back in 1958.

Today, the space agency use DSN antennas to send out signals to spacecraft. A ground-based control transmits and receives radio waves from as many as 30 spacecraft per day.

In a statement, deputy director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Larry James said:

“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.”

While radio technology has been working well the whole time, it does have some severe limitations.

For example, radio waves tend to grow weaker over a long distance. According to NASA, the power that the DSN antennas receive from the Voyager spacecraft is 20 billion times weaker than the energy needed to run a digital watch. There’s also the issue of limited capacity.

To address this issue, the space agency is giving its communication system a much-needed overhaul. NASA is adding a new dish called Deep Space Station-23 (DSS-23) to its Deep Space Network (DSN).

Using Laser Communication System on Crewed Spacecrafts

The antenna dish has mirrors, including a special receiver for beaming and receiving lasers from spacecraft in deep space.

The idea is simple. As NASA prepares to return to the moon by the year 2024, it needs to develop a faster and efficient way to stay in touch with the astronauts. Similarly, a future Mars mission would benefit from Laser communication technology.

Director of the Interplanetary Network, the organization that manages the DSN, Suzanne Dodd explained:

“Lasers can increase your data rate from Mars by about ten times what you get from the radio.”

At the moment, there are 12 DSN antennas across the United States. Also, NASA is currently constructing another 112-feet dish in Goldstone California, bringing the total to 13.

The more we explore, the more antennas we need to talk to all our missions,” James said.

Read More: NASA is Recruiting for Artemis Mission, Here’s how to Qualify

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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