The White House (Office of Science and Technology Blog) released information on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 concerning the LADEE/NASA mission. As most of you know, LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) launched the same day on a Minotaur V rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. (Wallops Island is the location of the Wallops Flight Facility.) In the attached Examiner video Jim Green (NASA Planetary Sciences Division) explains essential parts of the LADEE mission.
LADEE (per Dr. Green) will study the lunar exosphere possibly for remnants of sodium, argon, helium and hydrogen. The Apollo 17 astronauts noticed a spectacular lunar sky phenomena perhaps related to the remaining elements in the "atmosphere". The atmosphere is thin to the point where the elements do not even make physical contact with each other? Dr. Green claims this study is important due to the same on other planetary bodies.
Don't worry, NASA claims this is a "low cost" mission (one wonders how it is continuing during the sequester?). As an aside link here to see NASA's budget estimates for FY 2011 through FY 2017. However, the LADEE mission is about real science and that is laudable. But one wonders (with the interest of the White House) if the demonstration of the laser communication is the real objective of the mission. According to Dr. Green (video) the "laser comm" should reach transmission speeds of "620+ Mb/sec".
But that may be true only if the beam is not transmitting through moisture, smog and other phenomena. Perhaps those are just engineering problems to be overcome in the potential development of a "space laser communications internet". The implications are that (for the U. S. A. at least) that "real time" data transmission can be received from far away points like Jupiter - even farther. A low cost, low energy, low payload space laser communications device may just be the starting point with the LADEE mission. Perhaps this little communication tool may be important in competing with other nations in the space race?