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 😉 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 Kármán 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!