March 4, 2019

A Day in the Fascinating World of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

There are so many fabulous places to visit within a day’s drive of San Diego and one of those places is Pasadena and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory! For those who like to keep their eye on the sky, a visit to the location where space dreams originate is a very special outing.  So it was for my 39 Daytripper Tour passengers.

On the drive up, I even found out that one of my guests had been involved in the Apollo 15 space mission!  You never know who you’re going to have on board!  Before arriving at JPL, we had time for lunch on our own in beautiful Old Pasadena, about 10 miles NE of Los Angeles.  The 22 nationally registered blocks of historic architecture are a wonderful place to wander around with their tree-lined sidewalks and quaint alley walkways.  With 100 cafes and restaurants to choose from, the Daytripper passengers fanned out to find the specific cuisine they were hungry for.  Two favorites were Mi Piace Italian Kitchen & Bakery on Colorado Blvd. and La Grande Orange Café on S. Raymond Ave. I will be recommending both on future tours!

By 1 p.m. we were checking in with our government-issued IDs at JPL and being ushered into an auditorium filled with replicas of several of JPL’s best-known deep space probes.  It was thrilling to stand next to a half scale replica of Cassini which had a record-breaking 13 year mission observing Saturn’s rings and moons and sending back to Earth stunning photographs.  A full scale model of the Juno spacecraft was there too.  Juno is still orbiting Jupiter until 2021, also sending back colorful, detailed pictures. JPL has sent unmanned missions to every planet in our solar system. Then there are Voyager 1 and 2.  They have reached interstellar space, leaving the planets far behind.  Despite the fact that they are over 11 billion miles from Earth, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, even though it takes 16 hours to get a signal one way.

It boggles the mind. We watched an excellent film detailing all the planets and how JPL has increased our knowledge of what’s out there. Next we walked to the “clean room” where scientists in white “bunny suits” (to minimize human contamination) were working on the Mars 2020 Rover.  It was amazing to think that what we were looking at through big glass windows was going to actually be on the surface of the Red Planet in the near future!  As far as humans on Mars? Our docent told us they are aiming for the mid 2030’s.  That’s less than 20 years away! How exciting! We finished up in SFOF (Space Flight Operations Facility) which is a control room from which NASA has monitored and controlled all interplanetary and deep space exploration since 1963. We came with lots of questions, got lots of answers, but just like those who push the frontiers of space, were left to wonder “what’s next?” Seeing what JPL has already done in 83 short years, the sky’s the limit…

– Pat Brown
DayTripper Tour Manager
Tour: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Date: February 28, 2019


Categories: Blog