New Technology For Interplanetary Communication

Travel to Mars? Travel back to the Moon? Go to asteroids? We need better communications for this 21st century space travel!


(Using light signals rather than radio)
Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology

When we return to the Moon and place our first footsteps on Mars, we will want not only scientific data but live video feeds, high-resolution images, and even tweets from the astronauts. Imagine trying to stream gigabytes of data between Earth and Mars. Even the most sophisticated radio network isnít capable of that level of bandwidth. While NASA is working on modern radio designs, radio communication might not meet all our needs.

A new study looks at an alternative. It uses visible light rather than radio. While visible light can carry more data due to its shorter wavelengths, it also scatters more readily and loses fidelity over a shorter distance. To overcome this, the team proposes combining the signal with a second reference signal. The whole thing is then passed through a non-linear optical fiber, which generates a third signal known as an idler wave. All three of these are then amplified and sent on their way. On the other end, the signals are captured and processed. Because the idler wave depends on the other two signals, it can be used to reconstruct the original signal without much data loss. In lab experiments, the team reached a data-rate of more than 10Gb/s, which is ten times higher than current technology.

Communication in outer space is one of the pet projects put forward by communications engineer - and science fiction writer - George O. Smith in his 1942 story QRM - Interplanetary.

The Venus Equilateral Relay Station was a modern miracle of engineering if you liked to believe the books. Actually, Venus Equilateral was an asteroid that had been shoved into its orbit about the Sun, forming a practical demonstration of the equilateral triangle solution of the Three Moving Bodies. It was a long cylinder, about three miles in length by about a mile in diameter...


(From Venus Equilateral Station)

This was the center of Interplanetary Communications. This was the main office. It was the heart of the Solar System's communication line, and as such, it was well manned. Orders for everything emanated from Venus Equilateral.

Earlier still, Harry Gore Bishop wrote this in his 1907 story On the Martian Way:

Nor is it necessary to again tell how sweating, heat-blistered engineers at every interplanetary radiograph station on three planets, stood by their generators until they were carried out unconscious, speeding up their machines, to the calls of set-faced operators for higher voltage, as they hurled radiogram after radiogram out into space, under a pressure that damaged receivers on boats as far away as Jupiter but which failed to excite the wornout and leaky induction coils of the Columbia's instruments.
(Read more about the Interplanetary Radiograph Station)

Via UniverseToday.

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