QUOTE (monty python @ May 20 2008, 05:50 AM)
To make this a practical tool, we need laser com. to earth.
Not really - I did a blog entry from Valencia in 2006 about upgrades to RF comms that are coming online.
There is a 180w Ka band transmitter ready to fly at JPL. Combine that with a 3m dish on the spacecraft and a 70m DSN dish, you would get 8 to 20 Mbps (4x MRO's performance)
Upgrade the DSN to the proposed 400 x 12m dish arrays, and put a 6m dish on the spacecraft - then you can do 320 Mbps from Mars to Earth.