Like I needed another reason to be jealous of astronauts. Looks like those short guys in white suits will be the first to play with 100Mbps laser-powered internet. We'll be getting our Mars-porn about 20 times faster, thank God.
This new system, which will be tested over the next few years, will bring ultra high-speed internet to the far reaches of the galaxy. With traditional RF radios it takes about 90 minutes for a hi-res image to be beamed back to us from Mars. With this new laser-powered system, it'll take less than five. This will not only get us more imagery and faster from our deep-space probes, but it could be used to avert a potentially critical situation that a Mars rover could get itself into.
The new system will require a host of telescopes, lasers, mirrors, tracking equipment, and a bunch of other serious gear. Relay satellites and receiving stations will be scattered across the earth, in case bad weather at one site prevents good communication. This is NASA-only right now, but hey, so was velcro once upon a time. If things go well and these systems turn out to be scalable, we could potentially see this become the new satellite internet technology (our current options aren't so speedy). I don't know how practical it would be, considering how lasers and clouds don't play nicely, but I want it. Laser internet just sounds faster. [The Register]