PASADENA, Calif. — Even as more senior staffers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here begin to explore Mars with the state-of-the-art Curiosity rover, a group of scientists, engineers and neophyte managers in their 20s is preparing to use whatever is at hand to validate space-to-ground laser communications. That includes commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) avionics, the International Space Station, and the SpaceX Dragon cargo carrier. The results, delivered under a program at JPL to give ...

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