A trip to Goldstone

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in southern California.  Goldstone is one of three sites around the world (the others being in Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia) that receive and transmit data to spacecraft in deep space.  Three sites are needed to provide 24-hour coverage as the Earth rotates.  Goldstone’s history dates to 1958, when it was commissioned to receive data from Explorer 1, NASA’s first satellite.  Today Goldstone communicates with 30 spacecraft, ranging from SOHO and Stereo A&B viewing the Sun to Voyager 1, nearly 18 billion kilometers (10 billion miles) from Earth.


The Cassini spacecraft arrives at Saturn (artist's rendering). Credit: NASA

Hello, everyone.  Welcome to my blog as part of the Cosmic Diary.  I’m an astronomer at the SETI Institute.  Or a planetary scientist.  Or a planetary astronomer.  Or something.  I’ve never figured out what to call myself.  I spend my days doing what most scientists do: converting raw data into published papers, hopefully figuring out some fundamental truth about the universe and advancing the scope of human knowledge along the way.  Or at least that’s the theory.  Often my days are actually spent beating my head against misbehaving software or struggling to make sense of what I’m looking at.  It’s a wonderful job and SETI is a great place to work.