Ask an Explainer
how long does it take to program a rocket to do a mission remotely instead of someone riding in it?
Even unmanned rockets have a pilot at the controls... all the way from Earth!
The math and preparation takes months, but when all things are ready, most of the maneuvers are carefully controlled by people at mission control. Space probes that leave the Earth behind to explore the solar system relay their position back to Earth so that engineers know where it is at all times. Then they give the craft commands from home.
At Nasa's Jet PropulsionLaboratories, they drive the Curiosity Rover, which is on Mars. Pretty neat!