November 17, 2003
This winter an unprecedented number of spacecraft will need to call home. Playing a critical role in these planetary missions is NASA's Deep Space Network, which provides the primary means of communicating between distant spacecraft and Earth. With antennas in Spain, Australia and California's Mojave Desert, the network has the ability to provide radio communications with spacecraft at all times.
Peter Doms, manager of development and operation of the Deep Space Network, will describe the recent upgrades to support this planetary boom on Thursday evening, Nov. 20, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and on Friday evening, Nov. 21, at Pasadena City College.
"We have upgraded our network to be there right when the missions need us," said Doms. Among the upgrades is the addition of a new 34-meter (110-feet) antenna in Madrid, which began operations this month.
Commanding the spacecraft and returning science and engineering data are especially important during critical mission events, such as orbit insertions and landings. Among the missions supported by the network are the Mars Exploration Rovers that will land on Mars in January; the Stardust mission that will collect comet dust in January; the Cassini-Huygens mission that will probe the rings and moons of Saturn beginning in July; and the Genesis mission which is collecting solar wind particles for return to Earth in September. The Deep Space Network will support these key events in addition to its current workload of tracking 26 missions.
The free lectures are part of JPL's Theodore von Karman Lecture Series. Both will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The Thursday lecture will be in JPL's von Kármán Auditorium at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112. Thursday's lecture will be webcast live and available afterwards at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/nov03.cfm.
The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.
Contact: Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382