CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – An orange cat named Taters stars in the first laser-beamed video from deep space, stealing the show as she chases a red laser light.
The video is 15 seconds It was sent to Earth from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, 19 million miles (30 million kilometers) away. The high-definition video took less than two minutes to reach Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, and was transmitted at a maximum rate to the test system of 267 megabits per second.
The video was uploaded into Psyche’s laser communication experiment before the spacecraft blasted off to a rare metallic asteroid in October. The mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, decided to feature a playful 3-year-old employee cat.
The video was broadcast to Earth on December 11 and released by NASA this week. Despite the vast distance, the test transmitted video faster than most broadband Internet connections here on Earth, said the project’s Ryan Rogalin.
NASA wants to improve communications from deep space, especially as astronauts prepare to return to the Moon with their eyes on Mars. The laser display is intended to transmit data at rates up to 100 times greater than the radio systems currently used by spacecraft far from Earth.
More test transmissions are scheduled as Psyche heads toward the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But Taters will no longer appear, according to JPL.
Joby Harris, technical director at JPL’s DesignLab, couldn’t be prouder, but he doesn’t want his new cat’s fame to get to him.
“I’m celebrating his spotlight with him, but making sure he keeps his paws on the mat,” Harris said in an email Tuesday.
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