How Ubiquitous Are WiFi Hotspots?

Neil Armstrong will always be known as the first man to walk on the moon, but the next visitor to Earth's neighbor might have a new boast: becoming the first person to send an email from the lunar surface. NASA and MIT engineers spent three years developing the internet system that links the Earth to a satellite orbiting the moon. Of course, the engineers couldn't simply employ regular radio wave signals or Ethernet cables. Since the requirements for making a solid connection were out of this world -- after all, the moon is 238,900 miles (384,472 km) away -- the engineers had to reach for the sky. They rigged four 6-inch-diameter telescopes in New Mexico to send data via lasers, which pass though various columns of air that bend the light in different of ways. Doing so helps ensure that at least one connection can be secured. When they finally got to test their work, the engineers saw some impressive results: While upload speeds rival those of regular home service, at 19.44 megabits per second, download speeds are phenomenal, reaching 622 megabits per second. That kind of speed is truly stellar.

What you don't know about WiFi:

  • Technically, WiFi doesn't mean "wireless fidelity"; it originated simply as a meaningless term that sounded like hi-fi in 1999.
  • WiFi signal strength can be weakened by a number of things, including water -- which is of course what makes up a large percentage of the human body.
  • America's WiFi signal is slightly stronger than Europe's because the United States allows higher power transmissions.
More Info: Smithsonian magazine

Discussion Comments


The day one notices that internet works nicely 384,472 kms away and with great speeds but not on my bed.

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