NewScientist.com has the scoop on NASA plans to replace the radio links now used to communicate with Mars missions, instead using a laser communication system. Today's systems transmit about 128,000 bits per second, while the lasers will send between 1 million and 30 million bits per second.
There is the problem of clouds, which tend to interfere with transmissions. But NASA is confident that the new system will on balance be better than today's technology. It's allocated $270 million to the project, which will launch in 2009.