NASA beamed a high-definition video from the International Space Station down to Earth Thursday (June 5) in a demonstration that could pave the way for much speedier deep-space communications down the road.
The agency's Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) instrument transmitted a new 37-second, 175-megabit video called "Hello, World!" to a ground station in California as the orbiting lab soared 260 miles (418 kilometers) overhead.
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It would ordinarily take more than 10 minutes to beam home something as large as "Hello, World!" using traditional radio-wave communications, NASA officials said. But OPALS transmitted each copy of the new video in just 3.5 seconds.
"It's incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station," Matt Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
"We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions," he added.