making
The Making of Deep Space Dreams

When a Satellite in space sends out a signal, does anyone hear it?

Yes! The NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) is our ears to the universe.

It’s the world’s largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system for making and receive long-distance calls between Earth and outer reaches of our solar system!

Whether we are communicating with Curiosity Rover on Mars or with the Voyager-1 probe in the interstellar space, the communication passes daily through the NASA’s Deep Space Network. DSN controls the various NASA and Non-NASA unmanned interplanetary space probes. Without DSN, there would be no way for the Space probes to send back images and scientific information back to Earth.

The Deep Space Network ignited our Curiosity. The NASA’s portal – The Deep Space Network NOW which provides real-time status of communications between Earth and deep space probes fascinated us about human ingenuity and infrastructure humans have created to realize their Deep Space Exploration Dreams!

We had to do something. Our “Deep Space Dreams” project is a tribute and educational model to understand how the Deep Space Network functions.

Project Description

Deep Space Dreams picks up real-time status of communication from the three Deep Space Network facilities located equidistant from each other (approximately 120 degrees apart in longitude). These are at Goldstone, California; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia.

It takes this data and lights up different LEDs corresponding to the Dish that is actively communicating with a Space probe. As different Dishes become active or inactive, our Deep Space Dream displays changes in real time.

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Data received from the Deep Space Network!

We used our 8 years old Solar System puzzle to provide the background for the Deep Space Dreams project.

We programmed a NodeMCU chip which has WiFi capabilities to connect with Deep Space Network NOW. As the chip had only 9 usable input-output pins, we could only display data from 9 dishes (3 from each site).

This means as our planet rotates – we do not lose track of the spacecraft. Instead, as the distant spacecraft sinks below the horizon at one DSN site, another site picks up the signal and carries on communicating.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA manages the operations of the Deep Space Network.

 

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