In an engineering test, LADEE successfully used a laser to beam information back from the Moon this past weekend.
Lasers could enhance space communications and lead to radical changes in spacecraft design. Today’s spacecraft communicate with radio, but radiofrequency wavelengths are so long that they require large dishes to capture the signals. Laser wavelengths are 10,000 times shorter than radio, the upshot being that a spacecraft could deliver much more data then even the best modern radio system. For scale, NASA says that the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft that’s carrying this laser experiment would take 639 hours to download an average-length HD movie using ordinary S-band communications. LLCD could download the film in less than eight minutes.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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