June 29, 2012
On June 29, 2012, the NASA Glenn Academy visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. JPL, which is a federally funded research and development center owned by Caltech. JPL is primarily responsible for the development and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, but is also known to conduct science and Earth-orbit missions for a variety of applications. JPL scientists are also developing miniature satellites (called CubeSats) for future missions. The Laboratory has over 5,000 employees whose expertise mainly includes engineering (aerospace, electrical, and mechanical) and computer science. The Laboratory is roughly the same size as Disneyland.
JPL is largely known for their Mars Explorer Rovers (such as Spirit and Opportunity), Mars Science Laboratory, planetary orbiters (such as Cassini and Dawn), and telescopes, including Spitzer. Mariner 2 was their first spacecraft to fly by another planet, and JPL believes it is “not going anywhere near the stars for the next 20,000 years.” The academites were taken to a mini-museum that highlighted some of JPL’s most exciting projects and technology. They also visited a Mars simulation room and the Mission Control room which is used to monitor operating spacecraft real-time through data acquisition.