Superfast Internet Now A Possibility…. On The Moon
Chris Hadley / 5 years ago
The internet as we know it today is one of man’s basic commodities, sitting alongside other basic products such as food and water. If you think about it as well, we can all relate to this modern need, after all, how lost do you feel when you can’t get online for more than a day or so? It’s hard when you realise just how connected our lives are compared to a few years ago.
Well for the guys (and gals) up on the International Space Station internet connectivity is a possibility, although it has to be made over a VPN to a computer at Houston and even then, it is slow and only works whilst the ISS is over the states. But what if the speed could be much faster?
Those crazy scientists at NASA and group of researchers from MIT have been busy working on a solution to this problem and it looks like a decent wireless internet connection could soon be a strong possibility – on the moon. To put this into perspective we are talking about a connection speed that, during its last set of tests, hit 622Mbps download and 19.4Mbps up. To put this even more into perspective, the recent tests, which are run across a distance close to 400,000km (~250,000 miles), beat the previous connection speeds by a factor of nearly 5000.
To achieve these speeds, which are just over 33x the global average download speed of 18.5Mbps and twice the average upload of 8.2Mbps, the team of scientists set their eyes upon using lasers, the basis for fibre optics which are commonly used to span large distances such as between continents, as opposed to radio waves which were used for the previous record. It’s not just as easy as pointing a laser at the moon and beaming data though. Lasers are great when you have a dead clear line of sight between the two points and unfortunately there is this thing between the ground and the moon known as the atmosphere, or as the team probably know it – an inconvenience. Why is this Well in the higher altitudes of our atmosphere, strong wind currents and extreme turbulence have the effect of distorting and weakening the laser’s beam.
To get around this dilemma, four separate infra-red laser beams, transmitted through four telescopes in New Mexico are adopted, with a total transmission power of 40W between them, but even with this colossal power output, the signal that the moon receives is actually less than one billionth of a watt – that is one heck of a signal loss. Whilst this sounds bad though, this is reportedly still ten times the power needed to achieve these high speeds so the team are still happy.
Obviously the high-speed connection to the moon is a huge step forward in communication to space. In theory a satellite in geostationary orbit could be set to relay this high-speed connection around the world and potentially on to the ISS and beyond, reducing the communication latency and the time taken to send and receive test results to and from base control. Naturally there is going to be a strong cost involved in having the connection deployed on a permanent basis, but as time goes on and the technology becomes more advanced, high-speed space wifi could be a definitive reality.