Hanging Out at JPL
I just got back from a trip and one of my stops was a tour of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. They build and run a wide variety of satellites, mostly Earth observing and solar system exploration including the Mars Rovers and Cassini.
The first stop was their little museum. The room is dominated by a full scale model of the Galileo spacecraft that studied Jupiter. Galileo was a fairly large satellite as you can see.We got to see the testing facility where they have a working replica of the Mars rovers. Spirit is currently stuck on Mars. They are trying to recreate the conditions as close as they can so they are burying its wheels (it has used a camera on a boom to photograph them so we know roughly how deep they are buried) and built a platform that gives the same incline the rover is resting on. Now they are trying different techniques to get it unstuck.
And they are already hard at work on the next mission, the Mars Science Laboratory. Here is part of the six-wheeled rover.
Finally, we stopped by the control room. This is where the commands are sent to and data is received from the spacecraft.
JPL is a small city. Probably a couple of thousands of people work there on different projects. They have multiple cafeterias/restaurants, a credit union, fitness center, post office, recreation facilities and lots of other things you expect from a small city. I worked at Fermilab and it was very similar there.
It’s just cool to be where science is done.
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