NASA Sends Mona Lisa to Moon via Laser

NASA Sends Mona Lisa to Moon via Laser

The NASA team used DVD-style error correction to keep the image beautiful.

NASA has utilized laser communication to beam a picture of the Mona Lisa to a satellite orbiting the moon. Using the laser ranging station at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland to communicate with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), NASA transmitted a grayscale Mona Lisa to the moon and back. "This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances," said David Smith of MIT in a NASA press release. Smith is the principal investigator for the device on the LRO known as the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA), usually used to track the position and altitude of the lunar orbiter. "In the near future, this type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use. In the more distant future, it may allow communication at higher data rates than present radio links can provide." While most satellites use radio for tracking and communication, the LRO is currently the only satellite orbiting another solar body to be tracked by laser. The Mona Lisa image transmitted was about 152x200 pixels, and it was transmitted at only 300 bits per second, but it's worth noting that the laser ranging system was never designed to transmit image data.

Each pixel in the Mona Lisa was transferred to a grey shade, and each shade was represented by a number between zero and 4,095. Each pixel was a single laser pulse, timed during the traverse of the LRO. In this way, the image was piggybacked onto the laser tracking signal. Once the signals arrived at LOLA, they were reconstructed based on their timing - that is, their shade was determined by the time slot they arrived in. To make up for any transmission errors, the scientists used Reed-Solomon coding, the same error correction used by the lasers in CD and DVD players. Once the LRO constructed the image, it sent Mona Lisa back down to earth the old fashioned way, by radio waves.

In the coming years, NASA intends to launch a laser communications test satellite capable of much higher speeds, this is all part of NASA's next moon mission, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LDEE). The LDEE will use high speed laser communication as its primary means of communication.

Source & Image: NASA

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My hopes had soared when I read the title, then I read it. I had hoped they used a laser to carve the image in to the moon.

image

now the moon people will be able to see porn.

noting that the laser ranging system was never designed to transmit image data.

why did the us goverment cut parts of NASAs funding again?

008Zulu:
My hopes had soared when I read the title, then I read it. I had hoped they used a laser to carve the image in to the moon.

Psstt, dude... http://imgur.com/484bE

Earth-Moon, planetary distances? Surely they mean lunar distances.

Who else thought you were going to read about how they drew the Mona Lisa on the moon with a laser?

image

Silk_Sk:
Who else thought you were going to read about how they drew the Mona Lisa on the moon with a laser?

image

*squints and rereads article*

wait, that's not what happened?! D:

NASA: Spending billions of dollars to do useless yet awesome shit...

The Gentleman:
NASA: Spending billions of dollars to do useless yet awesome shit...

Laser communications is hardy useless, the tech they are exploring may one day be very important to both the military and civilians. Likewise this project certainly did not cost billions of dollars.

008Zulu:
My hopes had soared when I read the title, then I read it. I had hoped they used a laser to carve the image in to the moon.

100% with you, I was looking forward to seeing pics of possibly the most expensive and elaborate pieces of graffiti!

This is awesome. Reading this I actually started thinking of teleportation, I think this technology could eventually lead to it, sending matter down to a particle level to another location.

Despite being a scientist, i have to say i lost faith in myself when the first thing that came to mind in that article was "4095 shades of grey" - still a better application of the title.

OT: they've tried stuff like this before when hyping up for the mission to mars that kinda got put on hold so i guess this might have been another experiment that was planned earlier but had to take a back seat as its importance kinda wavered. Still pretty cool ^_^

Eh, from the headline, I thought they were going to project the image of the Mona Lisa onto the moon for some reason, not etch it in.

But I can't really blame the headline for that, doesn't look to be deliberately misleading this time.

AldUK:
This is awesome. Reading this I actually started thinking of teleportation, I think this technology could eventually lead to it, sending matter down to a particle level to another location.

With 3D printing and the internet, we already have basic teleportation. We won't be fusing ourselves with flies anytime soon but you can at least make an object appear thousands of miles from it's start point in a few seconds/minutes/hours without it existing in between.

Back to laser art. I too was hoping that an intern at NASA had carved the Mona Lisa on the moon. But maybe one day.

EDIT: somehow missed out the quote

So no jokes about the Moon-a Laser yet? I'm disappointed.

Funny !!!

yeah I really wanted there to be a giant James Bond like super laser that carved into the moon....
Oh well

rhizhim:

why did the us goverment cut parts of NASAs funding again?

Because they don't blow stuff up; if the money is going towards either a) blowing up stuff, or b) research into new ways to blow stuff up, funding is freely and easily available. God forbid it go to science or US infrastructure.

Sometimes I think that NASA scientists make a large number of their decisions based on the advice of a drugged-out intern:

Supervisor: So we are going to test the laser system by transmitting a large amount of date. Anyone know what we should do?
Intern: The Mona Lisa!
Supervisor: Well, I was hoping it could be plans for a moon base, or possibly my thesis on why Lost turned to shit after a couple seasons, but OK, the Mona Lisa it is.
Intern: Oh, no, wait, dude; MY DICK! We should totally send my D to the space people!
Supervisor:... Right then, let's get to work on the Mona Lisa.

Just to put a couple things into perspective...

NASA's 2010 budget was $18.7 billion. That's about 0.5% of the national budget. (Its all-time high was 1966, 4.4%.) A 1997 poll showed that Americans estimated NASA's share to be about 20%. For comparison, the Department of Defense's 2010 budget was $683.7 billion, about 40x that of NASA. It's amazing they do what they do with so little.

All the research NASA does is made freely available to the public. While corporations are busy abusing patent law to prevent competition, NASA lets anyone use anything they discover or engineer. Cordless tools, wireless communication, Lasik, digital cameras, smoke detectors, sonograms, pacemakers, MRI machines, cardiac defibrillators, and practically everything firefighters wear were all created by NASA or by people adapting NASA tech. (Honestly, I wish NASA would spend a couple million on PR just to tell people all this. The American public would probably care about NASA's budget a hell of a lot more if they knew what that money had done in the past.)

Also, this is the Earth and the Moon, sizes and distance to scale: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/astronomy/moon/earth-moon.jpg

So yeah. This is awesome. But more importantly, R&D like this is hardly useless. Most of the tech we take for granted today was invented decades after someone else discovered/developed the principles behind it by doing "useless" things.

But.... why Mona Lisa? there are far more important pictures to send to space. Imagine an alien intercepted it "oh those fat humans living in their silly stone houses with no technology, lets squat them like flies"

Only 300 baud?

Noobs.

 

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