Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, Fort Irwin, CA
When probes sent out into deep space get in contact with Earth, they are usually talking to one of three places—Fort Irwin, California; Madrid, Spain; or Canberra, Australia. These three locations form NASA’s Deep Space Network of dishes and antennas communicating with space probes far from home.
The three locations provide 24-hour coverage of space as the Earth rotates, and the entire network is controlled from the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. The complex is situated at the Fort Irwin military base, about 60 kilometers north of Barstow. Despite its location on a military base, it is open for public tours.
The first spacecraft tracked by the complex were Pioneer 3 and 4 in 1958/1959. These small probes sent back information about radiation between the Earth and the Moon in the Van Allen radiation belt. Ever since, the Deep Space Network has been involved in receiving pictures and data from spacecraft and sending back commands.
Some of the spacecraft have been flying away from the Earth for decades, making their signals very weak, but the ...