Thursday, March 02, 2017

Return to JPL

Today R2 and I joined fellow R2 Builders Keri Bean, Kevin Holme and Bryan Reniker for a fun day of discovery at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, CA.

Keri works at JPL, and she kindly offered to take us on a tour of the facilities. R2 and I have been here once before, but it was a long time ago and I was looking forward to seeing it again.

We started off in a room that exhibits replicas of various spacecraft and rovers, along with some actual artifacts.

It was all very cool, although the infrared camera proved there was warmth as well.

Next, we went to the Mission Control room. I'd seen this room many times, during the exciting webcasts when the various Mars rovers have come in for a landing.

There was a cool LED array that modeled live communications between various spacecraft and the ground via the Deep Space Network. The LEDs lit up as communications arrived. Some spacecraft were more verbose than others.

We then went to a high bay test bed, where an engineering model of a Mars Exploration Rover was situated in some gravel, as was a model of Mars InSight, a mission scheduled for 2018.

One of our last stops was a high bay clean room, where the Mars 2020 mission is just starting assembly. Mars 2020 is scheduled to be the next rover on Mars, and is planned to collect Martian samples for potential return to Earth in a future mission. A few years from now I'll look back at Mars 2020 and remember seeing it in its beginning stages.

Once our tour wrapped up, it was time to unload R2 and have some fun with the JPL staff! Employees heading home for the day were pleasantly surprised to find R2 in the courtyard to greet them.

And that's a wrap! Thank you again to Keri for taking the time to give us a great tour, I hope we get to return again sometime. JPL is a great place to visit, and it's always interesting to see what's next.

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