Asteroid Psyche mission: NASA breaks records, sends cat video via laser from deep space to Earth | Tech News

Asteroid Psyche mission: NASA breaks records, sends cat video via laser from deep space to Earth

Asteroid Psyche mission: NASA’s Psyche mission achieves a historic milestone, beaming an adorable cat video from 31 million kilometers away, showcasing groundbreaking deep space communication capabilities.

| Updated on: Dec 21 2023, 20:25 IST
NASA asteroid mission: Psyche Spacecraft almost ready for launch
1/6 Members of the media had a chance to closely look at the soon-to-be asteroid-orbiting spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs on Monday, April 11. NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will go on its journey to a metal-rich asteroid of the same name. (NASA)
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2/6 The media also had the opportunity to interview the mission leaders including Psyche’s principal investigator, Lindy Elkins-Tanton from Arizona State University, and its project manager, Henry Stone from JPL. (NASA)
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3/6 According to Brian Bone, Psyche’s assembly, test, and launch operations manager at JPL, “Welcoming reporters into the clean room gives the public a glimpse of the years of hard work that have gone into this mission. Thanks to the Psyche team’s determination and skill, we’re in the final stretch of readying the spacecraft to head out to our launch site in Florida.”. (NASA)
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4/6 To keep the spacecraft sterile and prevent it from carrying any earth bacteria into space, the equipment carried by the reporters was wiped and cleaned with isopropyl alcohol and donned protective smocks and hair coverings before entering the High Bay 2 clean room in the Lab’s storied Spacecraft Assembly Facility. (NASA)
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5/6 This NASA asteroid mission has been in the phase known as assembly, test, and launch operations since March 2021. Since the launch window is limited, scientists and engineers have worked round the clock in order to finish the spacecraft's assembly in time. (NASA)
6/6 In order to reach the asteroid, the spacecraft will fly by Mars for a gravity assist in May 2023 and, in early 2026, orbit around asteroid Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The launch window for the Psyche Spacecraft opens August 1. (NASA)
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NASA's Asteroid Psyche mission spacecraft accomplished a historic milestone by beaming a cat video from deep space to Earth via laser. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In a groundbreaking achievement, NASA's Asteroid Psyche mission has set a new milestone in space communication by successfully beaming an ultra-high definition video of a playful cat named Taters from an astounding distance of 31 million kilometers. Executed on December 11, this unprecedented broadcast demonstrates the potential for streaming high-bandwidth data from far off space, signifying a major technological advancement that could reshape future interplanetary missions.

Capturing the charming antics of Taters, an orange tabby cat, the short video was preloaded on NASA's Psyche mission spacecraft, currently on a journey to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The footage not only delights viewers with Taters' playful pursuit of a laser pointer but also imparts technical insights through overlaid graphics detailing the spacecraft's orbital path and the laser's data bit rate.

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Transmission Across Millions of Miles

The laser transceiver on the Psyche probe facilitated the transmission of this video to Earth, where it was received by the Hale Telescope at Caltech's Palomar Observatory in San Diego County. From there, the video made its way to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Deep Space Communication

Bill Klipstein, the tech demonstration project manager at JPL, highlighted the project's goals, stating, "One of the goals is to demonstrate the ability to transmit broadband video across millions of miles. Nothing on Psyche generates video data, so we usually send packets of randomly generated test data."

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy underscored the significance of this technological leap, emphasizing, "This accomplishment underscores our commitment to advancing optical communications as a key element to meeting our future data transmission needs."

According to a Speedtest report, the 15-second test video, sent via a flight laser transceiver at a maximum bit rate of 267 Mbps, reached Earth in just 101 seconds. This successful transmission, equivalent to broadband internet download speeds, showcases the project's potential to support high-definition data transmission for future human exploration of Mars and beyond. As the Psyche spacecraft advances toward the asteroid belt, this technology demonstration promises to enable the transmission of complex scientific data and high-definition imagery, opening the door to a new era of deep space exploration.

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First Published Date: 21 Dec, 20:25 IST