In DepthPlanetary Science

Deep Space Network glitches worry scientists

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Science  30 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6307, pp. 1477-1478
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6307.1477

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Summary

Earlier this year, the Cassini spacecraft screwed up an orbital maneuver at Saturn because of a problem with its radio connection to Earth. The incident was one of several recent glitches in the Deep Space Network (DSN), NASA's complex of large radio antennas in California, Spain, and Australia. For more than 50 years, the DSN has been the lifeline for nearly every spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit, relaying commands from mission control and receiving data from the distant probe. On 30 September, in a meeting at NASA headquarters, officials will brief planetary scientists on the network's status. Many are worried, based on anecdotal reports, that budget cuts and age have taken a toll that could endanger the complex maneuvers that Cassini and Juno, a spacecraft now at Jupiter, will require over the next year.