Space Breakthrough: Scientists Teleport Photon From Earth To Orbit

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For the first time, scientists have successfully teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite in orbit.

"Beam me up, Scotty," is a phrase synonymous with the futuristic show "Star Trek." Today, it might not be that far from reality.

In the early 1990s, scientists only speculated that teleportation using quantum physics could be possible. Since then, the process has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. 

In 2010, a team from the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai teleported photons over 60 miles on Earth, setting a record. Now, just seven years later, another Chinese team of researchers have exceeded expectations by teleporting photons from a ground station in Tibet to a satellite orbiting Earth.

It's more than 310 miles away.

The amazing feat marks the first time an object has been teleported from our planet into space.

The Chinese team told MIT Technology Review, "Previous teleportation experiments between distant locations were limited to a distance on the order of 100 kilometers, due to photon loss in optical fibers or terrestrial free-space channels."

Just last year, the Chinese team launched a satellite called Micius into a synchronous orbit (in laymen terms, that means it passed over the same point on Earth at the exact same time every single day).

The scientists then produced thousands of entangled pairs of photons and radiated one photon from each pair to Micius. Once taking the measurement of both photons, they were able to confirm that 911 of them on Micius stayed entangled with their counterparts on Earth. In other words, what happens to one happens to the other immediately.

But before you get in line to be zapped into space, that may be a ways off.

Even though there’s theoretically no maximum transportation distance when it comes to teleportation, we're still a long way off from moving anything larger. Entanglement is rather fragile, and the links can be broken pretty easily. However, the research that has taken place will pave the way for even more impressive studies of quantum teleportation.

The team told MIT Technology Review, "This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet."

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