The video Donald Cornwell plenary talk: NASA's Optical Communications Program: 2015 and Beyond was presented at SPIE Photonics West 2015. It's a great talk and worth the time.

Near the end at about 23:23 the speaker talks about the hope to put an optical communications terminal on the Mars 2020 rover, now named Perseverance.

Question: Did this happen?

Presumably it's for talking to to orbit, not to Earth; a 5 cm aperture seems small, though for demonstration purposes only a "heartbeat" signal might be possible. And Ingenuity probably couldn't afford the mass for an optical communications system, even though it could be fairly small.

screenshot from Donald Cornwell plenary talk: NASA's Optical Communications Program: 2015 and Beyond https://youtu.be/Iqdmc42IFCg


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It looks like the answer is probably no. The paper from the 2015 talk seems to refer to this as "a recent NASA JPL study", and notes that it would need a similar terminal on an orbiter. It looks like this was a paper study to see whether it would be possible, rather than a specific planned experiment.

A similar talk (slides) by Cornwell in 2017 identifies the Psyche mission as the planned deep-space test of the optical systems; it looks like this is indeed going ahead.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Thanks! The video mentions that the data rate directly to Earth would be low, and much higher if there was a satellite link.Since Curiosity is still going strong after 10 years and there's no reason not to think Perseverance will be too, it wouldn't have been unreasonable to put it on the rover now in anticipation of a future orbiter with a link. After all, all that sample caching assumes a future robot to pick them up and fly them back to Earth. So is your answer to the main question "No"? As far as Psyche that will be a bigger challenge at 4 to 7 AU than Mars at 0.6 to 1.6 AU $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Yes, the answer is no :-). I think I managed to edit the actual answer out in drafting... $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ "...similar terminal on an orbiter..." Not an orbiter, but by coincidence the Psyche mission will do a gravitational assist at Mars. That's probably too brief to try a demonstration with a rover, but if the rover did have an optical link this could have been an opportunity to try it! Live High Definition Video From Mars? NASA Is Getting Ready $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 23:01

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