The Deep Space Network

In previous posts, I have discussed Curiosity and Space Exploration. The importance of Space Exploration covered information on the International Space Station. When I was a child, I never thought about logistics of interplanetary communication. When I was first re-introducing myself to the topic, I stumbled upon the Deep Space Network (DSN).

Well what does that mean?

According to JPL.NASA.GOV, the DSN is defined as “…NASA’s international array of giant radio antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions, plus a few that orbit Earth” (n.d.). The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) based out of Pasanda, California operated the DSN. It is the only global spacecraft communication network. The Deep Space Network is able to communicate with interplanetary missions. It is also used for Earth-based missions. The most known example of an Earth mission would be the International Space Station. (Did you know that you can see the ISS without anything but your eye?) The DSN is a strong system to allow us to communicate with spacecrafts millions and billions of miles away. Yet, the signals are weak.

How does the DSN work?

The Deep Space Network is composed of three separate locations, strategically placed around the globe: near Barstow, CA, Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. Between the three locations is a network of large radio antennas. Equipped at each location is an enormous antenna. Many other antennas are also smaller in size but better in cost. Thus, they are the primary antennas. When emergencies occur, the large antenna is utilized. NASA may even collaborate with others, depending on the circumstance.

As the Earth rotates, the three locations allow for constant communication. Once the spacecraft dips below the horizon of one location, the next will be able to pick the signal.

But, the speed in which we receive communications from our varying spacecraft is s l o w! As many articles titles mention, the Deep Space Network is stuck with broadband. A recent example would be about Mars. Currently, it takes close to 8 hours to download 1 terabyte of information. Or speeds of 1.5 megabits per second. And that is Mars. The further the distance, the longer it takes for both the information to be sent through space and then slow download speeds. The spacecraft, New Horizons, tasked with a flyby of Pluto has had its mission extended. The distance between Earth and it is now much, much further. Can you imagine how slow that is?

There are different spacecrafts. Which one is relying data?

At the time of writing this blog post, the Deep Space Network was communicating with New Horizons and many other spacecrafts too. A different time I checked the DSN during the time I took to write this, we were also getting data from Voyager 2. This is one of the 2 satellites in interstellar space. However, most of the data was coming from the various Mars spacecrafts. Check out the DSN Now to see in REAL-TIME which spacecraft we are communicating with. It shows whether NASA is receiving data or sending commands to the spacecraft. It’s awesome. I personally would never have thought this sort of information would be available to the public. I keep the link up constantly and just check it ever so often. It’s quite a fascinating resource.

What if I want to visit?

You can! As I mentioned above, there are 3 locations around our Earth. Check out this link for more detailed information: https://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/about/complexes/visiting/

No matter which location, there is no cost associated but the details about each location varies. I know what I want to do the next time I am in California!

Learning about the Deep Space Network is a fun and exciting topic. I am excited for the changes that are bound to happen with the increase of technology. It’ll be an interesting journey.

Where did I get the information?

https://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/about/

https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html

https://www.lpi.usra.edu/opag/meetings/may2006/presentations/next-gen.pdf

Space Exploration and You

We stop our normal posts about space exploration off of our planet to bring you – the reader – some ground breaking technology already on our planet because of Space Exploration.

Have you taken a moment recently to check out NASA’s website? If not, please take a few minutes to do so. It is currently my favorite website and the source most of the information I have shared with you. It’s a great resource with a lot of amazing information. When I opened the web page as I do daily, I noticed a page I have never seen before:Benefits to You.

Curiosity (haha) got the best of me and I found myself on a new page with exciting things to learn. One of the first blocks on the page redirected me to homeandcity.nasa.gov. This is an extremely interactive page that illustrates how space exploration is intertwined into everyone’s life.

Obvious due to the site’s link, NASA has separated City and Home into 2 areas. In just a few clicks, I had learned so many interesting things. While, I don’t want to spoil too many of these for the Space Junkies, like myself, I do want to share my favorite from each room and place in the website.

I chose to start at Home, in the Living Room. Using the mouse, I am able to survey the room. Different bluepoints show anything that Space Exploration has assisted with. My favorite is the CMOS or “…complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor…“(homeandcity.nasa.gov). Essentially, a team at NASA created the digital camera that we have today. Something that many people in the world use daily was originally created for Space Exploration. While the website doesn’t go into detail about which Space Exploration projects the CMOS image sensor was invented for, it does state that the technology was invented in the 1990s. My mind runs crazy with possibilities. It personally makes me excited for the Mars Rover and the images NASA will receive back. After my time in the Living Room was completed,I made my way to the Kitchen.

The Kitchen has the same blue points indicating options for me to read. I found so many different things that drew my interest, that it was difficult to pick just one to write about! Eventually,I chose the Precision Coffee Maker. Using what I read to be basically Rover technology to keep the speed the same has been applied to an extremely advanced coffee maker.  It’s really called “proportional-integral-derivative(PID) controllers (homeandcity.nasa.gov). Using the PID controllers, the coffeemaker can brew a cup of java using stored recipes with “unprecedented precision in pressure and temperature control” (homeandcity.nasa.gov). Check out the Kitchen for other cool research that has found its way into your life. After the Kitchen, I went to the Bathroom.

Space Exploration has assisted with medical advances in the Bathroom, specially found in the medicine cabinet. As astronauts extend their stays in Space, NASA had to find a way to combat bone and muscle loss. Now there is an osteoporosis treatment available. There’re a few other things in the Bathroom to read up on as well such as Environmentally safe sewage treatments, Skin Cream and a few others. I continued on to the Bedroom. Just like in the Kitchen, I had more options that were interesting to write about, but I had to only choose one! After the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, NASA wanted to learn more information about what had happened. This same technology was used by Engineers to create a high-performance shoe. The system that both NASA and the shoe manufacturer used is high-speed stereophotogrammetry. Try saying that 3 times fast. The Home and City page did not provide any additional information on what high-speed stereo photogrammetry. It is defined as “The technique uses two synchronized cameras to film an impact,and then software to analyze how the materials deform during the event. Those movements translate to stress and strain”. This definition is found on thespinoff.nasa.gov site, which the link is provided fro the Home and City page.The technology was used to ensure space shuttles were safe. In 2005, two years after the disaster, NASA resumed space shuttle flights again. I find it quite fascinating that technology used to ensure space shuttle flights were safe is the same technology used to make a high-performance shoe.

I had one more area at Home before making it to the City – the Outside. Off to the left of the screen, you’ll see‘Small living quarters design’. An architect, Finney, that was assisting in the design of a Habitation Module for the ISS went on to create Cricket, a small trailer that can be pulled with a 4-cylinder car. In spinoff.nasa.gov, Finney states that anytime he speaks about Cricket, he is telling the listeners wha the learned during his time with NASA.

I could continue on for City but why ruin all the surprises for you? Let me know what you think about this page?What cool things did you find in the Home side that I didn’t mention? What about the City?

Thank you for joining me on the journey to learn more about Space Exploration.

Rachel Bee

Mars 2020 Rover

Opportunity’s mission coming to an end has re-woken an intense desire to consume every single piece of information regarding space. Growing up, space was just something I was surrounded by. I would seemingly just have something on the tv or a computer nearby which was turned to NASA or the ISS stream. You get the point.

As I got older and my education began to take over my time, space was pushed to the back burner. I missed years of space exploration, launches and so much more. No matter how much I wish I could turn back time to pay more attention to the stars around us, I can’t. However, I have chosen to change that – I strive to be current about all information regarding space, starting with Mars.

When I first read news that a rover will be heading to Mars soon, I got extremely excited for what this means. In just 504 days, a launch is planned. It will be tasked with four different goals. I believe that NASA has chosen the best for last: Preparing for Human Exploration.

Before I had even familiarized myself with the 2020 rover’s goal, I was excited for what this means for the human race. Opportunity and Spirit, the twin rovers, were launched in 2003. Until June 2018, we were learning about parts of Mars with 2003 technology. In 2012, Curiosity was launched but it is running on 7-year-old technology. This will be the newest and the best technology Earth has ever placed onto Mars.

With new technology, I can’t wait to see what new discoveries NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the rover find on Mars.

Saying Goodbye to Opportunity

On February 13, 2019, Earth said its final farewell to Opportunity. However, this was not when Opportunity said farewell to us. June of 2018 brought Mars an planet-encompassing dust storm. We would never hear from her again.

This struck me harder than I thought possibly. After all, Opportunity is only a Mars Rover. When Opportunity and its sister, Spirit, launched to Mars, I was 6 years old. Spirit landed on my 7th birthday and Opportunity followed a few weeks later. After 15 years have passed, I am now 22.

I keep asking myself why a little rover on a different planet would have such a profound effect on myself. At first, I thought it was because of the name. We have just lost… Opportunity. I don’t think anyone likes the feeling of lost opportunities. In a way, I feel that Earth has. What information could Opportunity send us What would happen to this little rover lost on the big red planet? There is no chance of Curiosity being able to save Opportunity – they are thousand of miles apart. I debunked this idea when I learned of the unnamed Mars Rover that will launch in 2020. I quickly devoured as much information as I could about it. (That’s for a different post.)

 After my excitement wore down enough, I still was unsure what could be causing my heavy heart towards Opportunity. A few nights ago, I realized I wasn’t entirely sad just about Opportunity. I realized that, for me, Opportunity was a symbol. I was a young child when the rovers went to discover new things about the red planet. Now, I have begun my adulthood.

As Opportunity, and its sister Spirit, explored Mars, I was busy growing up. My childhood was sprinkled with knowledge of the new information the twin rovers sent back. Now, I am not only saying goodbye to Opportunity, I am saying goodbye to my childhood. I was saying goodbye to being a little kid, to the routine I had grown so use to. I was saying goodbye to my childhood friends I no longer speak to. I was saying goodbye to every little thing that graced my childhood.

No,  I wasn’t saying goodbye to opportunity. I was joining in with NASA’s final farewell.

I was saying welcome to all the opportunities that the future may bring.