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Laser Space Kitty And Other 2023 Related Phenomena

The Internet Is Still Ruled By Felines

NASA’s laser space kitty was one of the odder and more impressive technological feats of 2023.  Cat videos are certainly not new, however sending them over a distance of 19 million miles, or 31 million kilometers, is unique and quite amazing.  NASA has been working on the bandwidth problem that would be faced when communicating over interplanetary distances for quite some time, as the old methods used for Voyager through to New Horizons simply won’t cut it.  New Horizons had a mere 38 kbit/s at Jupiter while at Pluto’s it wasn’t even 2 kbit/s which vastly limits what can be done and how quickly, leaving out the time delay such distances cause.

The solution NASA has been working towards are directional lasers, which are able to maintain cohesion at large distances and transmit data at a far more respectable bit rate.  This is rather difficult to manage as both the Earth and the target are moving, and in the case of interstellar probes their speed is rather respectable.   NASA persevered and overcame enough of the challenges to achieve this type of communication in 2023, with a video sent at 267 megabits per second with a 101 second time delay to reach from the Psyche spacecraft back to Earth.  As is appropriate for a new type of internet the 15 second video was of Taters the cat playing, recorded by the JPL employee Taters lives with.

A 15 second cat video might seem an odd choice to pick as one of the most impressive feats of 2023, but what this type of laser communication will mean for the future is inspiring.

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