Watch NASA’s Purrfect HD Cat Video Streamed From 18.6M Miles In Space

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NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment beamed a video featuring Taters the cat from 18.6 million miles away. The record-setting ultra-high definition streaming video was part of a NASA technology demonstration on December 11, 2023.

The DSOC experiment is NASA’s first demonstration of optical communications beyond the Earth-Moon system. It comprises a flight laser transceiver, a ground laser transmitter, and a ground laser receiver. The transceiver launched along with the space agency’s Psyche spacecraft in October of this year. The 15-second video, showing Taters chasing a red dot emitted by a laser pointer, took 101 seconds to reach Earth, sent at the system’s maximum bit rate of 267 megabits per second.

Note that NASA is touting this as an "ultra-high definition" video achievement, which would indicate 4K (or even 8K), though what's available on its YouTube account is Full HD 1080p.

“This accomplishment underscores our commitment to advancing optical communications as a key element to meeting our future data transmission needs,” remarked NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Increasing our bandwidth is essential to achieving our future exploration and science goals, and we look forward to the continued advancement of this technology and the transformation of how we communicate during future interplanetary missions.”

The experiment, capable of sending near-infrared signals, beamed an encoded near-infrared laser to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, where it was downloaded. At that point, each frame was sent “live” to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the video was broadcasted live.

“One of the goals is to demonstrate the ability to transmit broadband video across millions of miles. Nothing on Psyche generates video data, so we usually send packets of randomly generated test data,” explained Bill Klipstein, the tech demo’s project manager at JPL. “But to make this significant event more memorable, we decided to work with designers at JPL to create a fun video, which captures the essence of the demo as part of the Psyche mission.”

The extraordinarily cute video of Taters, who is a pet of a JPL employee, was uploaded before launch. It includes a overlay that shows Taters heart rate, color, and breed. The project’s receiver electronics lead at JPL, Ryan Rogalin, added that one of the exciting parts of the transmitted video is, “Despite transmitting from millions of miles away, it was able to send the video faster than most broadband internet connections.”