The same super-fast laser technology that sent clear images of Mars back to Earth just cleared another hurdle closer to home by sending an image of the Mona Lisa to the surface of the moon and back again.
Scientists at NASA wanted to know whether they could use laser pulses to “communicate” with the lunar surface using the same tool that tracks the position of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The team sent a digitized version of Leonardo’s famously inscrutable signora from the Goddard Space Center in Maryland 240,000 miles up to a laser transmitter aboard the orbiting spacecraft. Pixels traveled one at a time and were adjusted for brightness by controlled delays in their arrival time. The team corrected errors in the image using common DVD and CD techniques.
Pretty much everybody knows what the Mona Lisa looks like, so maybe that’s why they picked her face, instead of, well, mine. Maybe NASA is hoping her name will be changed to Moona Lisa.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (explained above) began its lunar orbit nearly four years ago. Laser pulses beam down to the moon and then bounce back to form images of the surface. Like those startling pictures of Mars, laser technology is helping develop a crystal clear topographical map of the moon, including the tracks of two astronauts’ unsuccessful trek to the top of a crater and the site of a lost Russian rover.
The Mona Lisa’s trip to the moon is important because the image was sent at the same time as laser pulses that track the craft’s position—the first outer space conference call—and it sets the stage for future high-data transmissions between Earth and its satellite explorers.
via The Atlantic