In early September 2012, the week that Hurricane Isaac blew through Louisiana, I applied for another NASA Social event. The last ones I applied for were the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) Curiosity landing events. I did not get selected for any of those, but I was encouraged to see more NASA Socials! The one in October includes a visit, tour, and presentations at NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Network Communications Complex in the Mojave desert. A week and a half after applying, I received an email saying I was not selected for the event, but I was selected for the wait list. THEN, a week later, I got an email saying I was OFF the wait list and IN for the event!
What exactly is the Deep Space Network? WELL........ There are three on our planet: one at Goldstone which is located in Fort Irwin, California, one in Madrid, Spain, and one in Canberra, Australia. There are three Deep Space networks so that communications with the crafts in the far reaches of our solar system will be constant as the Earth rotates. These centers monitor Earth-orbiting craft, perform radio and radar astronomy, and communicate with space craft that are out around remote planets in our solar system. Each complex is located exactly at 120 degrees apart around the Earth, about 1/3 of the way around so the fields of view overlap. Each place is bowl-shaped and semi-mountainous to prevent interference from other signals.
[This image is in the Public Domain]
The DSNs track unmanned craft, but can be called upon in emergencies or when the "communication pipeline" needs more resources.
Here are some helpful links to read more about what a DSN does and how they work:
Deep Space Networks - wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Space_Network
Goldstone - http://www.gdscc.nasa.gov/
Madrid - http://english.insa.es/view/page/madrid-deep-space-communications-complex/
Canberra - http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/National-Facilities/CDSCC-facility.aspx
I believe the total number of craft monitored by the DSNs is 35. Impressive!
Here is a screenshot of the Goldstone's page listing 24 of the 35...
So..............why am I interested in this?
Well, I have always been interested in radtio and television communications over long distances. As a child, I would scan stations on my shortwave radio and listen to programs from foreign countries. I would also secretly stay up in the night and use the VHF tuner on my little black & white Zenith TV to see if I could get any faraway channels from Charleston, SC. I used to keep a list of them. Some of the furthest stations away were Charlotte, NC, Savannah, GA, and on several clear nights I was able to actually get channel 44 in Tampa, Fla. Not bad! I used to run the SETI @ Home on my desktops computer and Contact is one of my all time favorite movies. Now, I DO know that Contact features the VLA (Very Large Array) and is not about monitoring unmanned craft. Still, radio astronomy and communication is fascinating to me, regardless of how little I know about it! :-) I hope to learn more at Goldstone! Being in a NASA Social is
A W E S O M E
and you learn so much, meet A M A Z I N G people who are curious about the same things, have an adventure, and get treated superbly by NASA and their guests.
What's not to love?!
Here is what I will get to do:
"Tour the Goldstone complex, travel to Apollo Valley to see the historic Apollo antenna and the 34 meter Beam Waveguide Cluster antennas, take a trip to Mars Valley, home of the large 70 meter Mars antenna (230-ft dish), the 34 meter Uranus antenna and Signal Processing Center 10, the Spacecraft Operations Control Center, meet and interact with scientists, engineers, and other team members from NASA and Goldstone, about the historical significance of Goldstone and its part of the Deep Space Network (DSN), the missions supported and what makes Goldstone unique within the DSN, view and take photographs of the complex, meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active on social media, and meet members of NASA's social media teams."
Here is the official NASA list of participants for Goldstone. 65 people were selected.
From NASA Social Media:
For more information on NASA and its Social Media programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/social/index.html
For more information on the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, visit: http://www.gdscc.nasa.gov/