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Emily LakdawallaMarch 14, 2014

Spacecraft phone home: Cool Deep Space Network data visualization

I've seen this cool data visualization in operation on several visits to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and I'm delighted to finally see it in action in public. Check out the "Deep Space Network Now" page at JPL's Eyes on the Solar System to see just who the many antennas of the Deep Space Network are talking to at this moment. When I checked, minutes ago, Madrid was talking to a distant solar observing spacecraft, ACE. Goldstone's giant antenna was tuned in to the incredibly faint signal from Voyager 1, and a smaller dish was pointed at the not-quite-so-far-but-still-distant Rosetta, still waking up from its lengthy hibernation. (I love the fact that Rosetta is abbreviated "ROSE".) Meanwhile, Australia's dishes in Canberra were extremely busy talking to Mars and Mars-bound spacecraft, with the great 70-meter dish pointed at MAVEN and the smaller DSS-45 and DSS-34 dishes listening to Curiosity, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Express simultaneously. Click on the number below any of the antennas and you get a picture of the pointing of the antenna and information about the spacecraft it's communicating with.

DSN NOW

NASA / JPL

DSN NOW

I happen to know that this project was the brainchild of Doug Ellison at JPL, though I also know it took a huge amount of collaboration with people all over the world to make this project happen. Now those of us outside the Deep Space Network can see, at any moment, just who is "phoning home" from across the solar system. Thanks to everyone involved for making this work, as we celebrate the 50th year of the Deep Space Network!

Read more: radio telescopes, fun, Deep Space Network

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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