Upcoming NASA Launch First Step Toward Interplanetary Broadband Internet
NASA is set to launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environmental Explorer (LADEE) from Wallops Island, VA, on Friday. LADEE has three mission objectives: demonstrate a low-cost approach, study the pristine state of the Moon and its exosphere, and demonstrate laser-based communications with Earth.
NASA is using this mission to show off a modular style launch system, called a modular bus. The modular bus allows different components of the rocket to be changed depending on the mission, similar to the way one can add memory or storage to a desktop computer.
This mission's primary goal, however, is to study the tenuous atmosphere of the Moon. Human activity on the Moon could disrupt the extraordinarily thin lunar atmosphere and NASA wants to know what effect, if any, we could cause by further lunar exploration.
Another objective of the mission is to test laser-based communications with ground stations. Currently, spacecraft use radio waves to communicate with Earth, transmitting to giant dish-like receivers on the ground. Lasers will provide a much more efficient communication medium and also allow for much greater data transfer speeds between spacecraft and their controllers. S. Pete Worden, Director of NASA's Ames Research Center, has called the laser-based communications on LADEE the first step toward an interplanetary broadband internet system.
LADEE will launch Friday at 11:27 PM EDT from Wallops Island, VA.
Photo courtesy NASA.