What is the Deep Space Network?
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California is NASA’s home base for spacecraft travel. Scientists of the JPL oversee missions such as the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on Mars, the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, and the Cassini mission exploring Saturn.
The Jet Propulsion Labs are also where NASA’s Deep Space Network is managed. The “network” is a series of dish-shaped antennas at three strategic locations around the globe; California, Madrid, and Australia. The stations are spaced approximately 120 degrees longitude apart from each other, ensuring that as the earth rotates there is a continual connection with NASA spacecraft wherever they are in the solar system.
Using the Deep Space Network, a spacecraft orbiting millions of kilometers away can be repositioned as NASA scientists send commands to change its speed and trajectory. When a spacecraft finishes the research it was tasked for, missions are often extended. Software upgrades can be transmitted to the spacecraft, sending it off in another direction within the solar system.
Spacecraft in turn “communicate” with NASA about the complex systems that keep them in flight, while transmitting detailed images from other worlds … the planets, moons, and asteroids that might otherwise never be seen from Earth.