While she is famous for her Moon-face and her inscrutable smile, Leanardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has now travelled 240,000 miles to the Moon itself, or rather to lunar orbit at the speed of light via a laser.
The Mona Lisa image was sent in black and white in digital format from the Next Generation Satellite Laser Ranging (NGSLR) station at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft which currently orbiting the Moon.
While lasers have been fired at the Moon, this is the first time that laser communication has been attempted at such distances. By transmitting the image piggyback on laser pulses that are routinely sent to track the Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument’s position, the team achieved simultaneous laser communication and tracking. To clean up transmission errors introduced by Earth’s atmosphere, the NASA’S scientists applied Reed-Solomon error correction method to estimate for missing pixel information.
Mona Lisa (aka La Gioconda). Courtesy: Leonardo Da Vinci