Mona Lisa Beamed to the Moon with Lasers; Thanks, NASA (Video)

First Posted: Jan 18, 2013 10:19 AM EST

It sounds like something out of a bad science fiction movie: Mona Lisa beamed into space. However, this particular incident isn't entirely fiction. NASA recently projected an image of the iconic painting into space. How? Good question.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the moon since 2009. In order to test the capabilities of lasers as conduits for interplanetary communication, NASA decided to use the orbiter as the receiver. Why this particular orbiter? It was the only satellite orbiting a body other than Earth that was currently being tracked by laser.

The organization then converted the iconic painting into a black and white, 152-200 pixel image. They then signaled the orbiter with a laser, and changed each "pulse" to signify how bright each individual pixel should be. In order to indicate which pixel was being expressed, the team used brief time slots that would represent each individual pixel. Needless to say, precise timing was needed to transmit the image. Fortunately, NASA succeeded. Mona Lisa travelled nearly 240,000 miles in digital form, successfully becoming one of the first paintings to be beamed into space.

Although some of the pixels weren't quite the right shade of grey, the organization showed that using laser communications was feasible. Not only that, but NASA showed that in the future, similar laser communications could be used as backups for radio communications. In addition, the technology could allow for communications at higher data rates than what is currently being used, possibly making lasers the future of interplanetary communications.

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