Even as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its commercial partners are working to develop methods to send humans to Mars, James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) showed that there may be a few difficulties. Through a simple animation, he highlighted the communications delay that future astronauts, travelling and staying on Mars, could face.

This artist’s concept shows what Deep Space Station-23, a new antenna dish capable of supporting both radio wave and laser communications, will look like when completed at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone, California, complex.
Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Taking to Twitter, O’Donoghue wrote, “Light speed radio communication between Earth and the Moon isn’t so bad, but using it to video chat with Martian astronauts is going to be tough, even when Mars is closest to Earth. Here light is emitted as a pulse every 3.36 seconds, making the pulses separated by 1 million km.”

As per the video, it takes three minutes and two seconds for a signal from Earth to travel to Mars at light speed.

Currently, the communication links between scientists and engineers on Earth and robots on Marsh is done through an international network of antennas called the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN).

The DSN consists of three deep-space communications facilities placed approximately 120 degrees apart around the world, at Goldstone, California; near Madrid, Spain and near Canberra, Australia.

According to a report in Business Insider, if mission controllers want to send a command to a robot on the marsh, the DNS antenna beams it across space to Marsh-orbiting satellites which direct it to the surface. However, the agency plans to upgrade the space-laser communication by the time it launches its first astronauts to Mars.

NASA wants to make use of lasers which can transmit data at 10 to 100 times the rate of radio waves. The space agency is set to launch new satellites to try out space-laser communications in Earth’s orbit in 2021.

Also read: NASA underestimating the time, money needed to bring Mars rocks back to Earth: Report

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