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Deep Space Communications

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Night shot of the 70m antenna at Goldstone, California. The parabolic dish is 70m 230 ft. in diameter. The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, located in the Mojave Desert in California, is one of three complexes which comprise NASA DSN.



Grade Levels

Grades 5-8


Mathematics, Physical Science, Space Science, Technology, Measurement and Data Analysis, Numbers and Operations, Problem Solving, Waves, Energy, Solar System and Planets, Earth's Moon, Communication, Remote Sensing, Satellites


Educator Guides, Lesson Plans / Activities

Four standards-aligned activities help students learn about the fundamental concepts of communication technology.

With these activities, students will:

  • Explain how NASA communicates with astronauts, satellites, rovers, and other spacecraft. Then demonstrate how communications work in the DSN by encoding and decoding messages using binary or hexadecimal notation.
  • Explain the relationships among frequency, wavelength, and speed. Then calculate the latency between Earth and other locations and construct a model to demonstrate the ongoing change in distance that occurs between Earth and Mars.
  • Explore how a data packet may become degraded during deep space communications. Then develop a protocol that will diminish this degradation
  • Find the most efficient way of getting from one place in a network to another.

Next Generation Science Standards: MS-PS4-2, PS4.A, MS-PS4-2, MS-ETS1-2, ETS1.C

Common Core State Standards: 6.EE.B.6, 8.EE.A.4, 7.G.A, 7.EE.B.3

Computer Science (CSTA): DA-07, 2-DA-09,

Deep Space Communications

Deep Space Communications (Spanish Version)

Section Links:
Introductory Pages
Activity One: Communications
Activity Two: Latency
Activity Three: Performance
Activity Four: Networks

This educator guide is part of the Next Gen STEM Moon series. Also in this series:
Crew Transportation With Orion
Propulsion With the Space Launch System
Habitation With Gateway
Landing Humans on the Moon
Hazards to Deep Space Astronauts
Deep Space Communications
Artemis Generation Spacesuits
Build, Launch, Recover