NASA and its commercial partners are working to develop the launch systems and mission technologies the agency will need to send astronauts back to the moon, build a base there, and eventually springboard humans to Mars.
One of the most difficult things about a crewed Mars mission, of course, is the 42-million-mile distance — not just traveling that far, but communicating planet-to-planet.
James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), made a simple animation to demonstrate the communications delay that future Mars mission controllers would face.
All in all, it takes three minutes and two seconds to send a signal from Earth to Mars at light speed.
If mission controllers want to send a command to a robot on Mars, the signal follows the same path: DSN antenna beam it across space to Mars-orbiting satellites, which then send it down to the surface.
That’s how NASA will manage its newest rover, Perseverance, which launched in July and is currently en route to Mars.
But the agency plans to upgrade to space-laser communication by the time it launches its first astronauts to Mars.
Though lasers also travel at the speed of light, they can transmit data at 10 to 100 times the rate of radio waves, using far less hardware. NASA estimates it would take nine weeks to laser-beam a map of Mars back to Earth, but the process would take nine years with current radio communications.
Mars, NASA, Earth
World news – CA – A scientist’s simple animation shows why there won’t be a way to communicate with astronauts on Mars in real time