Now You Can Check Your Email From the Moon

Friday, May 30, 2014 - 11:40 AM


It's been 45 years since humans have been on the surface of the moon, and with the recent decimation of the US Space Program, it's unclear when we're ever going back. But at least if we do, we'll be able to watch Netflix. A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory managed to beam a wi-fi signal to a satellite orbiting the moon, and the connection speeds actually weren't that bad.

Discover Magazine's D-Brief blog explains how it works:

In order to bring broadband to the moon, scientists used four separate telescopes based in New Mexico to send an uplink signal to a receiver mounted on a satellite orbiting the moon. Each telescope is about 6 inches in diameter and is fed by a laser transmitter that beams information in coded pulses of infrared light.

Since our atmosphere bends the signal as it travels to the moon, the four telescopes transmit the light through different columns of air, each with different bending effects. This setup increases the chance that at least one of the laser beams will interact with the receiver, and establish a connection with the moon.

They managed to transmit a signal at 19.44 megabits per second. For reference, most basic internet plans offer "up to" 25 megabits per second. So the speed is pretty impressive. I can imagine that, unless it's terraformed, living on the moon would be pretty a pretty dangerous, hardscrabble, unpleasant existence. But if I could check my twitter feed, I'd probably be cool with it.


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Comments [1]

Erik R. from Spain, baby!

One thing is bandwidth, and another is latency. Surfing the web from the moon would feel very slow due to the latter.

May. 30 2014 12:15 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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