Artemis II Will Phone Home From The Moon Using Laser Beams

Artemis II Laser Communications

[NASA] Astronauts will be testing the Orion Artemis II Optical Communications System (O2O) to transmit live, 4K ultra-high-definition video back to Earth from the Moon. The system will also support communication of images, voice, control channels, and enhanced science data.

Aboard Orion, the space terminal includes an optical module, a modem, and a control system.  The optical module features a four inch telescope on a dual gimbal mount. The modem modulates digital information onto laser beams for transmission back to Earth, and demodulates data from laser beams recieved from Earth. The control system interfaces with avionic systems aboard Orin to control and point the communications telescope.

On Earth, facilities including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the White Sands Complex will maintain high-bandwidth optical communication links with Orion. Information received from Orion will be relayed to mission operations, scientists, and researchers.

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) showcases the benefits of optical communications.  Traditionally, missions relied upon radio communication, but improved technology will better serve space missions that generate and collect ever-increasing quantities of data. Optical communication solutions can provide 10 to 100 times the bandwidth of radio frequency systems. Other improvements may include increased link distances, higher efficiency, reduced interference, improved security, and reductions in size and weight. Our Brief History of Optical Communication outlines many of these advantages.


52 thoughts on “Artemis II Will Phone Home From The Moon Using Laser Beams

  1. I wonder if cloaca on the moon will have spinning water in left to right direction or in reverse? Is it spin-locked to movement of water on Earth (high and low Tide)?

      1. ???

        Even on the moon people will have to do they’re #2s. You can’t possibly except them to stick some tube down there and literally vaccum stuff into a bag. That carries a risk of unwanted stimulation.

        1. Artemis II will not land on the moon, it will be in microgravity for the duration of the mission. The Orion capsule toilet uses a waste vacuum system.

          The HLS lander for Artemis III and Artemis IV missions will likely use the same vacuim toilet as Crew Dragon, since it is supplied by the same company and will need a toilet that works in microgravity in addition to on the lunar surface.

          Someday, when there is a lunar surface habitat, a gravity flush toilet may be an option. I suspect that with a rotation rate 28 times slower than Earth’s coreolis effect on the moon will be weaker than random currents and flow effects of the shape of the toilet.

          1. “vacuim toilet” sound about as bad as pleasuring oneself with a vaccum cleaner. It can lead to lifelong injury and worsened quality of relationships.

    1. Human or animal feces could be the beginning of creating arable land on the Moon. If we destroy Earth soil with pollution and CO² emissions we may not have any other choice but to farm on other planets.

          1. That appears to be incorrect, for various reason and on various fronts.
            You really should not trust bingbongbot (or whatever name MS uses) as a reliable source of information.

    2. It’s not. The coriolis force *does* influence which way water spins when draining out of a reservoir, but the effect is immeasurably weak on the scale of an, ahem, hydrologic waste disposal system. You need something the size of a pond before the effect is noticeable, and even then, everything has to be *very* still for the coriolis force to be the dominant factor in spin direction. Which way things spin when you flush is determined entirely by the angle of the water jets.

      1. But if water flow is equal or toilet gets clogged then the only external forces acting on a pool of water will be air pressure and Coriolis effect. Air pressure is constant across a surface so it’s out of equation (newton laws – forces equalize). This only leaves spin from Coriolis effect. Initially it might be small but chaotic dynamic systems tend to exponentially increment. It could be an interesting experiment to see if toilet behaviour on Earth and Moon differ.

  2. It’s cool as such, though not state of the art. The technology was there since at leat the 1970s, about 50 years have passed since.
    Don’t get me wrong, laser is awesome and elegant. But the whole moon project is 40 years too late already. Buzz words and admiration of 21th century tech alone won’t help.

      1. “There’s no rush.” Oh, kid.. How can I explain to you? Valuable people/experts had already died in the meantime.
        Back in the 60s/70s/80s there was a huge interest in space exploration (space age), with a large percentage of the world population being a part of it.

        Now these people are gone or at high age. They waited and waited and waited. But nothing happened in their lifetime. No moon colony, no space lab on an a space rock (asteroid), no real space station like in ‘2001 – A space odyssey’ (based on Braun’s design). That’s not fair. So many good souls that were eager to contribute something, to see a dream come true.

        Here we are, at a point we should have been 40 years ago, already. That’s nothing to be home about. It’s shameful. Imagine, a multi-national space exploration decades ago could have had prevented wars and political problems that we have now.

        The humble Apollo-Soyouz mission alone had a lasting effect, for example. Now imagine what a tiny moon base could have had a accomplished, 40 years ago. It would have had been a fine test bed for international cooperation. But that’s too late. Private space exploration is all about profits and exploitation.

        1. “a multi-national space exploration decades ago could have had prevented wars and political problems that we have now.”

          You’re joking, right ? Oh, kid, how can I explain this to you.

          1. Government should have stayed out of the way of private use of outer space 50 years ago. The use of the Solar System *should* be today like how science fiction writers decades ago depicted it for the present. Moon and Mars colonies, asteroid mining and more. Instead, the USA stepped back, launching only four manned missions to low earth orbit between the end of the Moon landings and the first Shuttle launch. Meanwhile the USSR launched several small space stations and a lot of manned missions in that same time. Over here, companies had to go hat in hand to NASA to have satellites launched on government rockets.

            SpaceX and the other, much smaller, players are finally doing what should have been happening the past 50 years. But there’s still the “gotta keep humans down on the farm” people yammering on about how it shouldn’t be allowed.

          2. I think it’s naive to think that private, profit-based companies are any better.

            Public agencies, however, serve the people (by definition). Most of them are being required to provide information publicly (normally). NASA, for example, does release space photos as public domain or under an open license. They have to be accountable, too. They must investigate accidents, if they happen.

            Seriously, what problems do people from overseas have? To someone from EU, this ongoing aversion against democracy and the constitutional state is just hard to understand. That obsession with money/taxes and private companies being good Samaritans, too. 🤷‍♂️

        2. I saw in space news the other day that Airbus is designing a new spacestation for ESA that will have a rotating part to get artificial gravity, to be launched in 2028 (seems optimistic).
          Problem is that the render has it being a modest size compared to the ‘2001’ deal, and studies have shown that if the ring is too small you get seasick from it since your inner ear system will react when you rotate your head. So I wonder if this was considered yet when they announced it.

          1. Yes, this was considered, of course. The rotating section of the station is not meant for permanent habitation, it’s to be used for exercise only. Having the humans sitting on a bike minimizes the issues with having such a small rotating section, while still getting the benefits from putting the cardiovascular system under earth-like loads.

        3. The Apollo moon shots were done with tech not ready for prime time. Establishing a base on the moon 20-40 years ago would have resulted in hundreds of deaths of highly qualified people and hundreds of billions of dollars in expenditures, all because we couldn’t wait for the technology to improve.

          As far as international cooperation is concerned, you only have to look around you to see that private business is the force constantly trying to avoid the impediments of national borders, and governments trying to increase those impediments. “International cooperation” headed by governments is a sideshow.

          1. Not quite. I have a different opinion here. The political situation 40 years ago was different, more professional in the public. Someone like last US president was unthinkable, for example.

            Technology. Is. Overrated. The whole computer evolution is irrelevant, I mean. A Commodore ViC-20 is good enough. I’ve used satellite prediction programs on such dinosaurs myself, just for fun. The computing power is fine. That doesn’t mean that it’s superior to an Apollo Guidance Computer, of course. That one was of overall higher quality and was priority based.

            And 100 of deaths? For a five man group of colonists? I hope not. 😨 An experimental moon colony could be established in one of the many craters. Some sort of large blanket could be used as a roof. Anyway, I’m just a layman here. A few dozen scientists from all over the world had created conceptual designs for such colonies. Using material on moon to build a moon base was being discussed, too.

      2. After 50 years of stagnation in LEO, we’re finally taking real steps to get back to the moon. Your comment sounds like it’s been sp long that goomg back is a bad idea.

        1. I’m sorry then, that’s not what I meant to say. I’ve been into amateur astronomy since the 90s and followed the news of Pathfinder, the STS missions and MIR.
          I’ve also toyed with lots of astronomy software of the day, such as SkyGlobe, SkyMap, STS Orbit Plus, etc.
          No, I don’t think it’s bad that new space missions for moon are planned. It’s just sad that it took so long. My grandmother, for example, was a moon fan and collected anything related to moon an space in news papers. Sadly, she never had a chance to see humans go back too moon. But she’s only an example of numerous other people who had waited in hope that something happened. The space program has a huge symbolic value, it’s a symbol for peace and cooperation. It motivates, inspires and makes us humans aware about how precious this blue marble really is. A space mission can concentrate resources that are otherwise used for warefare. If we learn to act as one in space, we humans mature as a species. We concentrate at things we can do accomplish together. That’s the contrast to private, commercial space. There’s no national pride, no population behind that feels proud being a part of it. It’s more like unethical cooperations that end up acting like in the first Alien movie or in Moon 44. Then, people in space are becoming commercial workers with money on the mind, rather than Astronauts/Cosmonauts with pride, empathy and principles. I simply can’t be happy about such a possible outlook.

          1. The real tragedy isn’t we have taken so long to do things in space. That is to be expected all things considered. Rather it’s the relatively short life span of humans. Our sense of wonder and exploration bites off pieces our short life spans cannot swallow.

            Hopefully we will be able to extend this dramatically in the future so that these endeavors can be done in one person’s lifetime.

  3. It’s kind of neat/amazing they can make this work at all at the distance of the moon. The link budget is awful, mostly because the receivers essentially count photons. For a 10E-12 bit error rate, you need a few hundred photons per bit entering your receiver. At 10 gigabits per second, that ends up being a lot of power compared to the same rate at, say, S band. The noise floor of an optical receiver is effectively 40 dB worse than a microwave dish at the same data rate.

    The only reason this works at all is because of the tremendously high gain from the telescopes concentrating the transmit power (and receive gain) in very narrow beams — just a few arcsec wide, or a few km wide as seen from the distance of the moon.

    So the pointing accuracy of the telescopes needs to be that good too. Fortunately, that’s a solved problem.

    Despite that gain, it still needs many watts of optical power. To do this from anything further than the moon is going to need a laser that will double as a fine defensive weapon. Or maybe even a thruster.

    1. The technology was there since the days of Apollo, I’m not kidding.
      In fact, if I’m not mistaken, a part of the Apollo mission is still active since back then.
      The scientist/researchers who measure the distance of the moon through the laser mirrors, who had been placed on moon during the Apollo landings.
      The laser is a green type and is installed in a little observatory, if I remember correctly.

      1. Laser ranging of the moon was done even *before* the retroflectors were put in place by the Apollo missions. The reflectors made it much easier: enough that they can reliably get a few photons back every few seconds now, from launching *megawatt* pulses.

        Whereas amateur radio operators are currently routinely bouncing radio messages off the moon with just a few watts of power.

        The physics hasn’t changed. The link budget still stinks for optical free space comms, and you still need very good pointing accuracy and high gain optics.

      2. Several observatories have laser ranging of the moon. On the moon are corner cube reflectors such that anything fired at the reflector returns to the same point it was fired from, so as long as you can see the reflector you can ping it.

        They have interlocks on the laser to avoid accidental shooting of aircraft in the vicinity, however with the density of Starlink satellites they will inevitably get shot, though it’s unlikely any harm would occur to them.

    2. The site says that the beam gets blocked by clouds, a bit of an issue with live feeds methinks.
      Even when they use sunny places you will likely have an occasional dropout, and in some events a long one.

    3. Yes this is how one intergalactic war was started, by a shopping list sent by an astronaut’s mother, they were out by a fraction of a degree in their aim and took out the ship belonging to a visiting leader from another galactic empire. ;-)

    1. I wonder how wide that beam is when it arrives, I imagine it would hit an area of a great many kilometers, so if it is using an unencrypted open standard then perhaps some amateur can try to receive it
      On the other hand, since they mention “U.S. Department of Defense’s
      Space Test Program Satellite 6″ I think it might very well be encrypted.

      1. Assuming the use of optics to widen the transmitted laser beam, a 100 mm diameter lens would have a beam spread of approximately 5 km when it reached the Earth. (If my calculation is correct)

    2. Consistent with NASA statutory responsibility, NASA will “provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof.”

      1. Appropiate.. and with the various administrations and CEO of NASA appointments coupled with the China hysteria..
        And then there’s the secret aliens :) Oh wait, they now WANT us to see aliens, I mean to say ‘and there’s the proof of absence of aliens’, phew, you gotta kep on top of things eh.

    1. To address concerns about wasting money they now give 200 random southerners a free AR-15 with every project they do; to make it worthwhile.
      Plus a donation to the Turn Men into Women Foundation [TMiWF].

    2. The money that is spent is spent on earth, on people who have jobs. Building something worthwhile.

      It’s not like actually pissing away billions buying a chat website.

  4. Put up some laser transceivers in high Earth orbit then send out laser relays to orbit all the large asteroids, the planets and moons. Put some into various solar orbits, and not only in the ecliptic plane. Put a high resolution, multi-spectral camera on each of them, with a true color mode along with UV, IR etc.

    Build a huge deep space laser communications network and have all the cameras able to work together as a massive synthetic aperture telescope. They’ll all need precisely coordinated clocks so they can independently aim at the same place at the same time to record observations then ‘bucket brigade’ the data back to earth using their lasers.

    1. Sounds lovely. My only concern would be routing calculation tables and ensuing we don’t have a repeat that caused negative numbers to cause all routing to go to just a few nodes. It happened twice on earth, I can’t imagine what would happen if it occurred in space.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.