After a four-year hiatus, the Open House at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory reappeared. In many ways, all seemed familiar, yet science has moved on. I looked back at my 2018 JPL post and found a photo of the Clean Room.
The above tangle of metal and cables launched in July 2020 and landed on Mars in February 2021. We now call it Perseverance.
In contrast, there was a new spacecraft in the Clean Room in 2023. The next big adventure will be the launch of the Europa Clipper!
I’m very excited about this mission! It will launch in October 2024 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. While in orbit, it will explore the surface of Europa to see if there are suitable conditions for life.
Mars Sample Return
Of course, Mars is still a significant planet of interest. The current mission involves taking samples and returning them to Earth. The NASA photo above shows the complicated collection of necessary equipment. The Perseverance has been taking samples and leaving the tubes on the surface of Mars. A helicopter will retrieve these containers and take them to a storage unit. Once this unit reaches capacity, it launches the rocket carrying the samples toward an orbiting vehicle. This ship will then fire off an Earthbound ship. Did I get all this right?
JPL Fabrication Building
Fabrication is a wonderful building filled with large 3-D printers and drilling machines! Who knows what all these things are? This is where designs are shaped into tangible parts.
Everything on the table was made in this building. The rectangular pieces with round holes are samples of metal. The nearest is aluminum, followed by titanium. The latter seems to be a favorite because it’s light. Here we saw the tubes for the Mars samples. The excitement over this mission was running high!
Of course, a visit isn’t complete without stopping at the Earth Sciences building. Here we learned about the satellites orbiting our planet. They monitor all kinds of things, such as dust, the salinity of the ocean, carbon dioxide, and more.
The SMAP satellite measures the moisture in the earth’s soil. The demonstration showed how this was done by measuring the temperatures of plants. The monitor shows the prominent driest regions in red. A visit to this building certainly is a wake-up call to take better care of the environment!
Where was this open house when I was young? It’s a great chance to show children the excitement that science can give. The folks at JPL were amazingly patient and answered all my questions. They were eager to talk about their projects. I hope you get a chance to visit the next open house. If you’re not in California, find a natural history museum! Science is happening all around us!
If you want to see a few more photos, please click here.