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Communicating across the solar system

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The next chapter in our ongoing quest for discovery began in the last half of the 20th century, with the initiation of robotic exploration of our solar system. In less than fifty years, we have broken free of Earth's gravity and flown spacecraft to every planet in the solar system except Pluto. The ultimate goal of this exploration is to establish a virtual (and, perhaps, someday, an actual) human presence throughout the solar system. Clearly, communications is one of the central elements of creating such a virtual presence, and also one of the biggest technical challenges in planetary exploration. Transmit performance is characterized by the product of antenna gain and transmitter power, while receive performance scales with the ratio of aperture effective area to system noise temperature. A number of key communications technology advances have enabled our planetary exploration to date, and future technology will open the door to new vistas in space exploration.

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IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine  (Volume:15 ,  Issue: 10 )