If this connection were used to send, say, a Blu-ray rip of The Dark Knight from the moon, it would take about 30 seconds. Downloading a typical five minute MP3 would take less than a second. Downloading OS X Mavericks, which is about 5 GB, would take a minute. You could send the entirety of Spotify’s music collection — over 20m songs — from the moon, where it is used for moon dancing, the greatest reduced-gravity pastime, in about eight days. There’s no texting on the moon! Only iMessage over Wi-Fi.
NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) has made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).
LLCD is NASA’s first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.
Of course, this connection is a two-way communications channel test, used exclusively for the transmission of scientific data and with no connection to the internet. Also, the download speed on the moon side is a mere 20mbps — stil faster than any national average by far — and the multi-second latency would just ruin Call of Duty.
Nobody has been to the moon since 1972, and NASA is having trouble hiring astronauts. Maybe this will help! We just need to adjust our imaginations for the new future of space travel: The moonbase will have Netflix.
Update: an earlier version of this post identified the moon orbiter’s download speed as greater than its upload speed; the reverse is true.
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