Dec 20, 2023 - Science

NASA streams cat video from deep space using laser

Screenshot: NASA/JPL-Caltech via YouTube

Taters has had a huge month. NASA featured the orange tabby cat in its first-ever video streamed from deep space via laser.

The big picture: It's so deep that the video beamed from nearly 19 million miles away.

  • That's equivalent to nearly 80 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.

What they're saying: Abi Biswas, project technologist for NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment, told Axios on Wednesday that this project was designed to boost the capabilities of streaming data from long distances.

  • Biswas said this effort will allow the DSOC "to use high-resolution science instruments as well as support possible human exploration to Mars distances" in the future.

Zoom in: The video signal took 101 seconds to reach the Earth on Dec. 11, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement earlier this week.

  • The laser communications demo had launched with NASA's Psyche spacecraft on Oct. 13, according to the lab.
  • The lab noted that the demo was "designed to transmit data from deep space at rates 10 to 100 times greater than the state-of-the-art radio frequency systems used by deep space missions today."
  • "Despite transmitting from millions of miles away, it was able to send the video faster than most broadband internet connections," according to Ryan Rogalin, lead of the project's receiver electronics at the lab, per the statement.

Of note: The choice to cast Taters drew partial inspiration from Felix the Cat, a cartoon character whose statue had been used for testing television transmissions in 1928.

  • The 15-second test video features a curious Taters chasing a laser pointer, who luckily remained on Earth the entire time.

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