The Mona Lisa has gone where no painting has gone before: to the moon. NASA used lasers to beam a digital image of the world-famous painting into outer space, where a satellite by the moon itself was a bit like a projector wall.
High art has never been so high. NASA scientists have beamed a picture of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to a powerful spacecraft orbiting the moon, marking a breakthrough in interplanetary laser communication.
David Smith, a researcher working with the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (where the image was transmitted), says the NASA laser acted as a test for future space exploration:
“This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances. In the near future, this type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use. In the more distance future, it may allow communication at higher data rates than present radio links can provide.”
According to Fox News, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft was already equipped with a laser receiver, making it the perfect choice to test out the novel laser-based communication method. While radio signals track most spacecraft exploring the solar system, NASA is using lasers to track LRO as well.
The famous da Vinci painting had to be digitally divided into sections measuring 150 by 200 pixels. Then at just the right time it was transmitted via the pulsing of the laser to the orbiter at a rate of about 300 bits per second. Radio telemetry was used to beam the 500-year-old image back to Earth. According to CNET, errors caused by atmosphere turbulence were cleaned up with Reed-Solomon error correction, a technique used in CDs and DVDs, .
Leonardo is said to have loved this ever-famous portrait and taken it with him to France. He would most likely appreciate that Mona’s smile has graced the heavens as well. What do you think about NASA beaming Mona Lisa to the moon?