NASA beams video of cat chasing laser 31 million km for “fun”

Trust NASA to take cat videos to the extreme.

The American space agency’s mission to explore a metal asteroid has beamed a video of Taters, a ginger cat, some 31 million kilometres to Earth from its Psyche spacecraft as it glides through space.

The transmission reached Earth in 101 seconds as part of a demonstration of NASA’s new Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) instrument, which hitched a ride on the Psyche mission.

Its last demo saw a message beamed to Earth over a 16-million-km distance

DSOC has been developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as a next-generation communications technology, allowing complex information to be transmitted 10-100 times faster than is possible for existing radio frequency instruments used in space.

The 15-second, high-definition video of Taters chasing a laser behind several pieces of test information is an example of what might be possible.

“One of the goals [of the Psyche mission] is to demonstrate the ability to transmit broadband video across millions of miles,” says Bill Klipstein, DSOC’s tech demo manager.

“Nothing on Psyche generates video data, so we usually send packets of randomly generated test data, but to make this significant event more memorable, we decided to work with designers at JPL to create a fun video, which captures the essence of the demo as part of the Psyche mission.”

While a fun application of DSOC, the mission intent is more serious. High-speed information transmission is a key component of NASA’s aspirations to land humans on Mars in the future. In its early December demonstration, it successfully transferred 1.3TB of data speeds of 62.5-267Mbps in around 20 minutes – similar to high-speed broadband rates available from consumer internet providers.

Just 30 years ago, 1.2TB of data was sent by NASA’s Magellan mission, but over four years.

It’s understood that no animals were harmed in DSOC’s latest tech demo.

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