The establishment of the Deep Space Network (DSN) has been a critical component of many NASA missions. It’s a communications system comprising three huge antennas with transceivers strategically positioned around the world: Goldstone in eastern California’s Mojave Desert, Robledo de Chavela near Madrid, Spain, and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Australia.
Their terrestrial position means that the collective DSN can communicate with any craft beyond a critical 30,000-kilometre (18,640-mile) threshold from Earth.
This network is used not only to relay and receive telemetry from spacecraft, but also to gather data from probes and transmit commands or software updates. It was recently used to monitor and guide NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory probe onto Mars and is in frequent contact with the Curiosity rover as well as using the artificial satellite network orbiting Mars.
NASA’s DSN isn’t the only example of such a communications network though. It often co-operates with other space agency networks, such as the Soviet Deep Space Network and ESTRACK, managed by the European Space Agency.