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The Invisible Network
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The Invisible Network

Author: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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The Invisible Network is a NASA podcast presented by the Space Communications and Navigation program, giving you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the feats of engineering that make possible humanity's ambitions among the stars.
19 Episodes
At its core the NASA History Office ensures that, as we look forward to the Moon, Mars and beyond, we remember the lessons we’ve learned from our predecessors. The race to the Moon in the 1960s occurred against a very different backdrop than today's Artemis program — but both exhibit what humanity can achieve when we set ourselves to lofty aims.
There is perhaps no one better than Jim Garvin to outline the unique opportunities for research that the Artemis missions to the Moon could provide scientists on Earth. Jim is chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a tireless champion for crewed exploration of the Moon.
Science fiction and science fact have long enjoyed a symbiotic relationship, with ideas in one prompting innovations in the other, and so on. Dan Curry, a filmmaker, artist and visual effects producer best known for his Star Trek work, shares his perspectives.
Faster-than-light communications might not be a possibility now — our current understanding of natural laws don’t allow for it. But who knows what innovations await us just beyond the horizon?
What does the Pony Express of the 19th century have in common with the internet and disruption-tolerant networking? They're all (for their times) innovative communications technologies that revolutionize the way we share data.
Without communications there is no exploration: To reveal the unknown, a spacecraft must be able to share its data. In a sense, today's space communications networks are like the roadways of ancient empires, allowing information to move across vast distances. But how might our satellite data highways evolve to enable exploration centuries from now?
For billions of years, the Earth and the Moon have danced together. Since the Apollo era, scientists have used lasers — a technology then in its infancy — to measure their waltz. Lasers have since played increasingly important roles in spaceflight. They may even play a part in keeping the next generation of lunar astronauts connected to home.
Amidst the grandeur of spaceflight, there is a tiny bit of technology that, if not for its major role, might otherwise go unnoticed: distress beacons. This NASA-developed search-and-rescue technology could be life-saving not just for astronauts, but for travelers across the globe as well.
Spacecraft near Earth have long relied on GPS signals for navigation, just as users on the ground might use their phones to navigate the highways. Farther away, navigation — and the math behind it — becomes a great deal more challenging.
"Form follows function" is an oft-cited architectural axiom. In space, form doesn’t necessarily follow function. Human space habitation is rooted, by necessity, in pragmatism. The architectures of Earth won’t work in space, but there is plenty to learn from Earthbound architectural theories as we extend our reach among the stars.
In recent years, NASA has renewed its focus on the Moon. Soon, we will look up at the Moon and rediscover a magic first experienced in 1969. It’s a magic that will flow through networks more sophisticated than ever before — an appreciation for the technological wonders that lay ahead, just above and all around us.
Every summer, fresh faces flood NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. They are the interns. Each new face comes with an idea to share — a contribution to make to the agency. Space Communications and Navigation interns contribute across many diverse disciplines, from cybersecurity to public outreach.
CubeSats are small satellites, some weighing as little as 3 pounds. They provide opportunities for small-scale research in space, and an avenue for young scientists — some as young as middle school-aged — to see their curiosity take literal flight.
The technologies that fuel NASA's exploration don't just stay in space. They benefit humanity in everyday life — sometimes in surprising ways, like how a NASA communications engineer helped create a system that freezes bone marrow.
In the telephone switchboard’s earliest days, the late 1800s, operators served a limited number of customers within their own communities. As telephone use expanded, automation helped switchboards keep up. NASA is working on a similar approach, infusing its satellite networks with a sort of artificial intelligence.
Whether you're relying on the careful observations of 1950s amateur astronomers and backyard telescopes or state-of-the-art GPS tracking and navigation technology: knowing where you are in space means needing to know what time it is.
The mythic hunter Orion, son of the sea-god Poseidon, was himself mortal, but his godly lineage enabled impossible heroic feats, earning him a place in the night sky as a constellation. NASA has developed its own Orion, a hunter for knowledge not of this Earth: a spacecraft designed for humanity’s return to the Moon and exploration of deep space.
Just south of the equator lies a tiny plot of volcanic soil, a thousand miles from the nearest continent. This bizarre, remote island had mammoth importance to America’s first efforts in space.
NASA presents The Invisible Network, a podcast giving you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the feats of engineering that make possible humanity's ambitions among the stars. Join us October 16, as we reveal these invisible networks.
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