|One happy tour guide who grew up in South Pasadena, about 5 miles from this famous facility.|
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for NASA by Caltech (California Institute of Technology), is located in a beautiful setting at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains between Pasadena and La Canada/Flintridge. The facility is huge, with over 110 buildings and approximately 6,000 employees. Of course, the tour only covers a minute portion of the site, but the stops were well-planned and beautiful explained by JPL's public outreach staff.
|Nestled between Pasadena and La Canada/Flintridge at the top of the Arroyo Seco canyon, Jet Propulsion|
Laboratory is a beautiful campus of 110 buildings.
The first stop is on the tour is in the Von Karman Auditorium containing models of many of the famous robotic spacecraft that have visited our solar system. Here, the JPL tour guides introduce a short film - "Journey to the Planets and Beyond," which provides an overview of the Laboratory's activities and accomplishments. Needless to say, the film was chock full of fascinating information and actual images of our neighboring planets. Guests may also visit the von Karman Visitor Center, the Space Flight Operations Facility, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
|Model of Cassini spacecraft in Von Karman Auditorium. The spacecraft was launched|
in 1997, arrived at Saturn in 2004 for thirteen years of study, and ended its mission by
crashing into the ringed planet in September 2017.
|This gentleman on the tour worked on the Voyager spacecraft modeled behind.|
The Golden Records pictured below are also on display in the auditorium. These two records, containing sounds and images meant to portray life on Earth, were placed aboard both Voyager spacecraft in 1977 in the event that intelligent life from our solar system or beyond should encounter them. Our group really enjoyed the fact that, in addition to classical music, the Golden Records also contain the music of rocker Chuck Berry.
|Both Voyager spacecraft contain the Golden Records of life on earth|
The next stop was the highly interactive Von Karman Visitor Center. There were so many interesting planetary exhibits that we could have used more time. The emphasis here is education in the context of excellent graphic displays.
|The Juno spacecraft is currently exploring the giant gas planet of Jupiter. We learned that the famous red spot is|
actually a storm that is thousands of years old.
A highlight for our tour group was visiting the Spacecraft Assembly Facility. This decontaminated "clean room" is where the new Mars 2020 rover spacecraft, the largest to ever visit the Red Planet, is being constructed. The scientists in white smocks or "bunny suits" are currently building the vehicle that will lower the Rover onto the martian surface to look for signs of past life, drill for mineral samples, and "cache" these samples for possible return to Earth.
|At the Space Flight Operations Facility, our excellent guide continued to answer questions and share fascinating|
stories. On the other side of the glass windows, JPL scientists were monitoring current missions.
|I was pleasured and fascinated that the Space Flight Operations Facility was designated a National Historic Landmark -|
the highest designation that the Department of Interior bestows.
|Earth radar must have a continuous line-of-sight with the various spacecraft and satellites monitored by|
JPL. For this reason, it has radar in the California desert; Madrid, Spain; and Australia. JPL literally
never loses sights of its missions!
|One happy Hoffy tour guide who finally made it to JPL!|