Mona Lisa Goes to the Moon

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa went to the moon (well, into lunar orbit) and back yesterday from Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center. And you thought you were well travelled.

The Mona Lisa is now the first image to be transmitted to lunar orbit from Earth. Thursday, in a NASA experiment, a digital image of the Mona Lisa was transmitted via a laser beam to a satellite orbiting the moon. According to CNN, the image was digitalized and transmitted almost 240,000 miles to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Goddard’s Xiaoli Sun said in a research report that the painting was chosen because it’s so much more visual than a string of numbers, making it easier to see what got lost in the trip. The picture to the left shows the image after its return. The left side of the image is how the picture looked before error correction.

The trip was not just NASA’s way of scoring awesome points. David Smith of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “This type of simple laser communication might serve as a backup for the radio communication that satellites use… In the more distant future, it may allow communication at higher data rates than present radio links can provide.”

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