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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Photos of the Day: JPL Open House 2014...

Scheduled to launch in January of 2015, the Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite is displayed inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, CA...on October 12, 2014.

After a 2-year absence due to NASA budget cuts, the Open House finally returned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena this weekend. Based on the huge throngs of people and the extremely long line of cars trying to enter the Caltech-run installation today (the traffic jam extended all the way to the 210 Freeway; if you've ever been to JPL or at least the La CaƱada Flintridge area, you'll know that this is pretty major), I wasn't the only one waiting for this NASA center to open its gates to the public once more. It's not a surprise though... The huge success of the Curiosity Mars rover since she arrived at the Red Planet in 2012, the continuing on-pour of amazing photos from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn and Voyager 1's historic arrival in interstellar space two years ago has whet people's appetites to visit the facility that is responsible for constructing and managing these amazing robotic probes.

Visiting the Mission Support Room inside the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, CA...on October 12, 2014.

The highlights of this year's Open House were: 1.) The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite that was on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SMAP will be shipped to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base 160 miles north of Los Angeles sometime this week or the next... It's scheduled to head into space next January), 2.) Crowds being able to visit the Mission Support Room (above) inside the Space Flight Operations Facility (below) for the very first time (The MSR, of course, was made famous by all the cheering flight controllers on NASA TV as Curiosity safely touched down on Mars) and 3.) Pretty much everything else on exhibit at JPL. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the fact that this Open House was extremely crowded showed that folks wanted to see anything and everything that this NASA site had to offer. And hopefully, they weren't disappointed (I sure wasn't). I definitely can't wait to visit the Open House again next year...with the highlights of 2015 most likely being Dawn's first-ever images of the dwarf planet Ceres after the spacecraft arrives there next March, and the preparation for NASA's next Mars lander (called InSight) as it gears up for launch in early 2016. That is all.

Visiting the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, CA...on October 12, 2014.

A model of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission spacecraft is displayed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, CA...on October 12, 2014.

The Scarecrow, the main prototype for the Curiosity Mars rover, is displayed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, CA...on October 12, 2014.

A huge crowd of people mill about during the Open House at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, CA...on October 12, 2014.

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