To Boldly Go: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Space….even before the likes of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon, we have been fascinated with it. From turn of the century books like A Princess of Mars and the radio shows of the early 30’s and 40’s to early astronomers as far back as Galileo and Aristotle, we’ve wanted to know what lay beyond the stars. Even early civilizations like the Aztecs were known for worshipping the planets and stars. While we are past that, the draw to outer space is still as strong as before, if not stronger. It plays perfectly with our human curiosity and our sense of adventure.

I don’t know about you, but I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. I was infatuated with space exploration. I wanted to go to Space Camp, I was the first in line to go to the observatory, I even had my own telescope. I’m still that little kid at heart! You can imagine my excitement when I learned that I could get a behind the scenes look at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in my own backyard! Especially since Space Camp never happened. I was cordially invited by NASA Social to partake in the State of NASA address in one of the most epic ways ever! Live from the JPL control room! With a behind the scenes look the day to day operations to follow! Let’s just say I said yes.

NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been making the dreams of space exploration and travel a reality for kids and adults all around the world since 1958. Starting out as the  National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA was formed out of the combination of three major research laboratories, Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory, when the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. With the space race in full heat, NASA acquired control of elements of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) and the United States Naval Research Laboratory, as well as the Jet Propulsion  Laboratory, which was run by the California Institute of Technology, in conjunction with ABMA, at the time. JPL was a crucial part of NASA during the race against the Soviets and launched the first US satellite into space.

 Times have changed and while we are no longer in a race to space, some things have remained the same. JPL is still the primary planetary spacecraft center for NASA and is still managed by CalTech. With projects like the Ranger and Surveyor missions to the Moon that prepared the way for Apollo to interplanetary exploration with the Mariner missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury, JPL has made significant contributions to space exploration.

JPL is also responsible for more current projects that include missions like the Mars Science Laboratory (the Mars Exploration Rover Curiosity), the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Dawn misision to the dwarf planet Ceres and asteroid Vesta, and the Juno spacecraft en route to Jupiter(which arrives July 4th, 2016!), just to name a few. There are many more missions slated for the future, as NASA is leading the way on the Mars2020 project. You can even check out JPL for yourself. JPL is proud of what they do and loves to show off just a little ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Public Services Office offers free guided tours for schools, groups, and the general public. They even offer an Annual Open House, as well as their von Kรกrmรกn Lecture Series. You can find more information by clicking here. If you can’t make it to to JPL right away, don’t worry, there is a gallery below to hold you over! 

Have you been to JPL, or any the other NASA sites around the US? Or any of the ones throughout Europe and Asia? If so, I would love to hear about it! If you have any comments or questions, please comment below and remember to never stop exploring!


78 thoughts on “To Boldly Go: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

  1. You beat me to this, Joe. I live just minutes from Jet Propulsion Laboratory and meant to visit it when my son was a little boy, but never made it. Very interesting tour!

  2. Now this is right up my alley!

    I love all things space, so this has been added to my must visit list!

    We’d hoped to watch an ESA rocket launch from French Guiana last year, but sadly that never eventuated.

    Great stuff!

  3. This sounds fantastic! I was also one of those kids who dreamed about going to space (and still do!). I have unfortunately never participated in one of these programmes, but it is never too late!

  4. looks interesting and very educational for all. A space nerd’s fantasy come true i guess. I was born a little late to get wrapped up in the whole space race thing but i still find it interesting. I must admit seeing mission control would be one of those special memories

  5. Craig has just been Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, he is a massive big space geek. It’s still all a mystery to me, regardless of the countless planetariums we’ve visited, including a proposal in Vancouver, it’s still the stuff of Hollywood mystery for me! I need to take this tour.

    1. I would have to say my favorite part was either watching the State of NASA address in mission control, or the clean room. Seeing all those space craft parts up close was incredible!

  6. What a cool tour! I’ll be in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks and may have to check this out. Of course, I’ve been living in Orlando for 10 years now ans meaning to check out the Kennedy Space Center too. Any day now!

  7. I haven’t been to any of the NASA sites around the US but both my daughter and I would love it! After recently visiting the California Science Museum, I decided to add NASA sites to my list.

  8. Wow. I can’t believe I have never considered taking a tour like this one! Thanks for sharing this experience of yours! I’ll try and do my own research for similar experiences in Europe and Asia. I’m sure most of us that are eager to travel have thought about being an astronaut as a kid. Aren’t they considered the ultimate explorers?
    More power to you and your fervent enthusiasm for adventure, Joe!

    1. Thank you Trisha! I believe we all wanted to be an astronaut at one time in our lives, how could you not? Good luck finding stuff while traveling, I believe the ESA offers tours of their facilities as well!

  9. You are one lucky guy Joe! Like you, I have always been fascinated by space and have even dreamed of becoming an astronomer when I was a kid. Sadly, math skills have evaded me. LOL. I hope that I too can do this when I step in American soil and at least fulfill a part of that childhood dream. hehe. A very fascinating tour indeed!

  10. I bet that was a really cool experience. Of course, we’re all fascinated with space! I’d love to see the Command Center and check out how NASA works. Very cool that you got invited to see that.

  11. Never been to anything like this but would definitely be interested. Although between Tom and I, he is the space geek so I’m sure he would love this.

  12. It’s pretty awesome that you got to have an inside look into Nasa, especially since you wanted to be an astronaut when you were younger. It seems like you had a nice time there – I can imagine that it was fascinating to learn more in detail about the trips that they have taken into space.

  13. This looks like so much fun! I went to Kennedy Space Center as a kid and really enjoyed it. I’d love to go back now that I’m an adult and can appreciate it more. So cool that you were able to visit after having a love of space exploration for so long.

  14. Space is so amazingly fascinating! I haven’t been to any NASA sights, but this behind the scenes tour looks like a great way to pique curiosity and see the many projects they are working on to explore planets like Venus and Mars. I love your passion, too! I wasn’t hoping for space camp as a kid, but I did do marching band camp so I get it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. This brings back memories! I had a teacher who’s son worked at JPL and we definitely did some field-trips there. The place is awesome, but somehow in a 2nd grader’s mind, the most memorable part is the freeze-dried ice cream we got from the gift shop. It wasn’t even good!

  16. Nice! I have a friend that works there. I’ll need to come tour it some time.

    I just saw the Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport here in Washington, DC. I loved seeing the Space Shuttle up close!

  17. What a great tour! I would love to do this with my husband. He’s very into space and all things NASA. I guess sometimes we should look in our own backyard for the incredible things we can do that are close to home.

  18. This sounds like a fun, educational tour! I had no idea this is in California in LA. I’ve been to the museum of air and space in Washington DC but it would be cool to learn even more about NASA from JPL. I’ll have to pay a visit, I will probably take my little cousins with me to check this out since I am sure they will like it ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks and Im glad you had this opportunity to explore!

  19. Great tour write up. I have never been to this NASA facility. I still remember visiting Kennedy space center while they were building the international space station. It’s amazing that things we see on these tours are destined for space.

  20. I think thast you and my husband must have been separated at birth! He wanted to be an astronaut growing up, has a telescope, loves visiting observatories – from Flagstaff, to Sydney, to Mauna Kea, and beyond. He has even spoken about going to Space Camp in Alabama.

    Great post.

    We also have a deal. If we win mega, mega millions in a lottery, my husband wants to use some of the money to go up to the ISS.

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