JPL Tour

JPL Tour

Arjun P., Editor-In-Chief

On November 7, 2014, the creators the Honeybee Math Circle, Tejal and Siena, hosted a trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL is where scientists create, launch, and control the unmanned exploration vehicles.

When all of the students arrived, the students lined up and were taken inside a giant amphitheater. We saw models of JPL’s latest missions and heard about its history. JPL was created by a group of students who were working with rockets in Cal Tech. The Cal Tech teachers didn’t like how they were practicing rockets in their lab, so the college students settled in the area where JPL is now located. At the time, it wasn’t surrounded by all of the houses that surround it  today, so it was a safe place to build and launch rockets. However, they eventually changed their purpose to creating and controlling unmanned space flights. The JPL scientists build unmanned space vehicles for various missions. In one mission, they used a scanner to analyze the amount of soil in various places on Earth. This is important so people know where they should grow crops. In another mission, JPL landed Rosetta(a robot) on a comet (which they just did recently).  In addition, a spaceship called Juno will descend beneath the clouds of Jupiter.

The students looked at some of the models of the spaceships before going to a mini-museum. At the mini-museum we saw some more models of their creations. Models of the rovers that landed on Mars such as Sojurner, Opportunity, and Spirit were displayed in  the front of the museum.  Sojurner was the first rover to descend on Mars and was only the size of a microwave. Opportunity and Spirit were the second and third rovers to go to Mars. These twin rovers were the size of a golf cart. The newest rover, Curiosity is the size of a car.

Then, we walked to a room at the back of JPL. While we were walking , we saw deer eating grass next to the building we just exited. When we entered the room, we encountered a real size model of Curiosity. Many interesting objects were on Curiosity, including one thing that looked like an eyeshadow box. This box controlled finding a new mineral. Basically, the JPL scientists put earth materials into each little box. When they think they have found a new mineral, they would scan the box. If the scanner found a mineral on Mars, it would compare it to one of the minerals in the eyeshadow box and see if that mineral was found on Earth. When they apply how much it was different to the new mineral, they could see if it is new or not. Behind this model were doors leading to the main control room. We could see people at the bottom working on their computers. We were told that in this room, there was always 5 people working. On the side panels showed code coming right from the unmanned spacecraft. Cassini, a spacecraft orbiting Saturn, was giving a lot of live data.

After seeing the control room, we went to a room that had almost zero air cleanness. In this room, people were making delicate objects for space. In this room, the amount of dust in the air is much less, so the air is lighter and cleaner. After that, we went back to the entrance when our amazing tour ended.