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How does NASA communicate with vehicles and satellites in space or on the surface of Mars?

How does NASA communicate with vehicles and satellites in space or on the surface of Mars?

A lot of space talk has surfaced in recent days, primarily driven by the imminent launch of the Artemis missions to the Moon. There are many things that spark curiosity about the topic of space, and among the most popular are: “How does NASA communicate with probes in space and Mars?

If you ask yourself this question, you are in the right place and the answer you are looking for is called “deep space network‘, abbreviated to DSN.

It is an international network of antennas that are the main communication bridge between structures on Earth and probes in space, including those on Mars. DSN – On Our Planet – was formed by Three large antennas placed about 120° from each other, located in different regions of the world: one of them is located in Goldstone, in California’s Mojave Desert; another located near Madrid, Spain; The latest is found in Canberra, Australia. In space there is one instead Many satellites and repeaters This allows the signal to bounce back farther.

This strategic location allows constant monitoring of the spacecraft, allowing you not to completely lose communications, Regardless of the position of the probe or the rotation of the Earth (Find an illustration at the bottom of the article).

DSN antennas are very large (up to 70 meters in diameter), in order to allow the reception (and transmission) of signals even to vehicles billions of kilometers from our planet, such as Voyager probes, the man-made objects farthest from Earth. Do you think the signal the Voyager 1 probe is currently receiving is about 20 billion times weaker than what a digital watch needs to function.

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Over the years, engineers have found a way to improve and amplify the coverage of this type of “space internet,” by introducing satellites and relays capable of bouncing the signal from one point to another in an extra-atmospheric environment. The most striking example is certainly “Mars reconnaissance vehicle(MRO), the spacecraft that has been orbiting Mars since 2006 and which – in addition to its amazing scientific function – allows for an exceptional flow of data, even 34 TB/sec. Thanks to her we can receive photos and videos of curiosity, perseverance and creativity.

Finally, all data is collected, aggregated and managed by the Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF) at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California. A DSN is also essential for lunar missions, and The missions of Artemis will be in dire need of them once they can leave.