Saturday, May 20, 2017

Photos of the Day #4: Explore JPL...

The cruise stage for NASA's Mars 2020 mission on display at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) Spacecraft Assembly Facility...on May 20, 2017.

Earlier today, I drove down to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California, to attend Explore JPL...formerly known as the JPL Open House. I haven't been to this NASA center since December of 2014 (when I attended the NASA Social for Orion's first mission on Exploration Flight Test 1), and it was cool to see what JPL is working on these days. That would be the Mars 2020 project! While the rover for this mission won't begin construction for another couple of months, engineers inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF) have already begun construction on the heat shield (which was transported to another facility for testing when I visited the SAF) and cruise stage (above) for Mars 2020. Assuming that I'll still be available on the weekdays to do this in the future, I'll be planning to sign up for JPL tours over the next 2-3 years to see the progress being made on assembling the Curiosity Mars rover's twin sibling.

Attending the Explore JPL event near Pasadena, California...on May 20, 2017.

I was lucky to secure a ticket for Explore JPL two months ago...since you now need a pass to attend this event due to the Open House getting so popular over the last few years (one culprit for this being that 2015 Matt Damon movie The Martian...which prominently featured JPL, or at least a futuristic version of it) that it couldn't handle the growing number of attendees who showed up to Pasadena. But that's obviously a great thing! JPL will definitely be the place to be at if it's chosen as the manufacturer for the Europa Clipper next decade. The laboratory did, after all, build the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, as well as the Galileo spacecraft that studied Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, and the Cassini orbiter which will end its mission at Saturn this September. So basically, JPL is the site where you can see actual spacecraft destined for the outer planets and the surface of Mars. (Along with Curiosity and Mars 2020, the lab also constructed the Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity rovers.) That is all.

Inside the Space Flight Operations Facility at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

A full-size model of NASA's InSight Mars lander (set to launch in May of next year) at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

A test version of the Curiosity and Mars 2020 rovers, dubbed Scarecrow, on display at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

A full-size model of the Curiosity Mars rover at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

Full-size models of the Mars Exploration Rover and Sojourner rover (near the right side of this photo) at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

The cruise stage for the Mars 2020 mission on display (along with the work stand for the spacecraft's heat shield, which was at another facility for testing) at JPL...on May 20, 2017.

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