Space Communications

November 3, 2011 at 9:00 am | Posted in Miscellaneous, Regular Feature, Science News | Leave a comment

Ever wonder how we plan to talk to manned spacecraft when and if we ever do achieve the speeds necessary to explore our solar system and the greater galaxy? Radio waves travel at the speed of light are just too slow to make an effective means of communication. At that speed, communication with a manned mission to the surface of Mars could take up to ten minutes to send a message one way. That’s twenty minutes between the sneeze and gesundheit. Furthermore, radio waves only travel in one direction. Meaning there would be butt loads of math involved just to figure out what direction to point the transmitter if you were trying to contact someone outside the solar system.

So... can you hear me now? Mhmm... can you hear me now?

I actually once wrote an article for this very space that was titled, “Top 5 Totally Misused Sci-Fi Technologies”. In it I outlined the ways I found various sci-fi staples were being misused. In hindsight, I do wish I had included communications on the list. Star Trek calls it “sub-space” communication, and Star Wars calls it “The Holonet.” Both imply that the signal is being broadcast through some means outside normal space-time. Yet somehow anyone with the necessary antennae array, such as the one busted off the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Ep VI: The Return of The Jedi, can pick up the signal wherever in the galaxy they may be.

What makes it all the more confounding is that their ships can only travel in speeds that are multiples of the speed of light. Meanwhile, their communications can seemingly travel hundreds of light years, as is the case in Trek, or up to a hundred thousand, as is the case in Star Wars, in what seems to be an instantaneous transmission. They have real time conversations with people vast distances away. If you have a transporter, why not just send the ship where it is going via whatever awesome sauce communications array you have by using it to broadcast the transport beam?

But I digress… the following is from our friends at NASA. It gets us up to speed on the modern state of space communications. Enjoy the short video.

So there you have it. Not very heavy by means of an explanation, but it seems there is a new generation of higher bandwidth, high definition laser communication satellites planned and built at this very moment. Lasers are still bound by Einstein’s fundamental speed limit of light speed, but at least we get clearer pictures for the time being. Perhaps one day soon, the answer to this long range communication problem will present itself. Until then, the next time I sneeze on Mars, I’ll check back with you for the gesundheit.

by Revmacd For Roqoo Depot – Where Science Meets Science Fiction

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