Columnist Leonard David

Lunar Laser Link: Virtual Reality from the Moon

lunar lander
(Image credit: Astrobotic)

The world's first laser communication link … from the Moon!

A laser communications terminal on a private firm's upcoming mission to the Moon has been announced during this week's Paris Air Show.

Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ATLAS Space Operations Inc. of Traverse City, Michigan are now linked at the laser – offering up to one gigabit per second of data to its customers.

"This is an historic, thousand-fold increase of bandwidth for Astrobotic's lunar mission," explains the firm's press statement.

Virtual reality from the Moon

John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic says: "Laser communications have been sought after by planetary missions for years. ATLAS and Astrobotic are now making this capability a reality."

According to Thornton, laser communications on the Moon will expand payload capabilities dramatically, enabling high definition video, ground breaking data-intensive experiments … even virtual reality experiences from the Moon.

"No doubt this is a foundational capability for building our future on the Moon," Thornton adds.

(Image credit: ESA/NASA)

Game changer

The ATLAS network provides affordable cloud-based solutions for space access in the rapidly growing global space market.

Sean McDaniel, CEO of ATLAS, explains that the partnership is "a real game changer for lunar communications."

McDaniel says, up to now, communications for lunar missions have had no collaboration or continuity in efforts, meaning each time another mission launches, there needs to be a new communications solution.

"But our optical communications terminal provides Astrobotic's customers with a turnkey solution," McDaniel explains, for strong and reliable communications for the foreseeable future – between lunar missions and Earth.

Peregrine lunar lander. (Image credit: Astrobotic)

Lunar logistics

Astrobotic Technology Inc. describes themselves as a lunar logistics company that delivers payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals.

The company's spacecraft accommodates multiple customer payloads on a single flight, at $1.2 million per kilogram.

Astrobotic is an official partner with NASA through the Lunar CATALYST program, has 22 prior and ongoing NASA contracts, a commercial partnership with Airbus DS, a corporate sponsorship with DHL.

The new partnership brings the total number of deals in place for Astrobotic's mission to the Moon to eleven.


NASA's Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative is establishing multiple no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) partnerships with U.S. private sector entities. The purpose of these SAAs is to encourage the development of robotic lunar landers that can be integrated with U.S. commercial launch capabilities to deliver payloads to the lunar surface.

(Image credit: NASA)

Back in April 2014, NASA announced selection of three U.S. companies to negotiate no-funds exchanged partnership agreements with the agency to advance lander capabilities that will enable delivery of payloads to the surface of the moon, as well as new science and exploration missions of interest to NASA and scientific and academic communities.

The selected companies were:
— Astrobotic Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh
— Masten Space Systems, Inc., Mojave, Calif.
— Moon Express, Inc., Moffett Field, Calif.

Cargo carrying Peregrine lander. (Image credit: Astrobotic)

Keepsake MoonBox

Astrobotic is also accepting small mementos for inclusion on its first mission to the Moon. The Moon Capsule protects an individual's keepsake in flight and on the lunar surface.

All of the Moon Capsules on a flight will be integrated into a single Moon Pod on the Peregrine lunar lander.

After the lunar landing, MoonBox™ participants will receive images and videos of the Moon Pod on the Moon, attached to Astrobotic's lander.


For more information on Astrobotic, go to their website at:

Also, go to this informative video at:

For additional info regarding ATLAS Space Operations, go to their Space 2.0 video at:

Leonard David is author of "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet," published by National Geographic. The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel series "Mars." A longtime writer for, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. This version of this story was posted on

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.