Field Trip to JPL!

On March 1, Christine Hirst’s Astronomy class, which includes me, went on a field trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or JPL, in La Cañada Flintridge (technically, it was in Pasadena when it was built but La Cañada Flintridge was built around JPL, so you could say it was either one).

JPL is a federally funded research, development, and NASA field center that specializes in making robots for use in space, though it does also conduct Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. Which is why, when we went there, we got to see life-size models of Spirit/Opportunity, Pathfinder (A.K.A. Soujourner), and Curiosity, four Mars Rovers that were built and are managed by JPL.

Spirit/Opportunity (they look the same) and Sojourner
Spirit/Opportunity (they look the same) and Sojourner (Photo taken by Corrine Butler)
Curiosity contemplating life’s decisions (Photo taken by Derek Udtama)

When we first got there, we saw a video on the history of JPL and watched a Powerpoint presentation about the awesomeness of infrared presented to us by a scientist working on the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, the fourth and final of the NASA Great Observatories program.

Infrared bruh..
Ha ha (Photo taken by Jordan J. )

Next, we split up into four different groups, each rotating between really cool places. My group first (and everybody else later) went to the Space Flight Operations Facility, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, you can see the model of Curiosity right when you walk in the door), where we all sat in astronomers’ chairs, pretended to type on their computers, and saw a heart-tugging video where the normal people who sat in the chairs celebrated like crazy when Curiosity landed on Mars. It was great.

Watching the video
Watching the video (Photo taken by Derek Udtama)
The worker with the coolest name (by far) goes to
(Again, photo taken by Derek) The worker with the coolest name by far goes to:

We then went into the control room, (jokingly labelled as The Center of the Universe) where we talked excitedly.

WOOP!
WOOP! (Photo taken by Jordan J.)
The Thinker
The Thinker (Again, photo taken by Jordan J.)
Confirmed
“Confirmed” (Photo taken by Jen Mehrnoush Zomederis)

Outside the Space Flight Operations Facility is a jar of “Lucky Peanuts”, so called because at JPL they sent stuff into space to hit the moon, and until the 6th or so time never came close until someone ate peanuts while the mission was being performed. A joke originated that eating the peanuts made it work, and JPL’s tradition to eat peanuts whenever a mission was in effect has stayed for long years after.

So lucky
(Photo taken by Derek Udtama), also OHMYGODSOLUCKY!!!~~~

There were Lucky Peanuts for the public, and I believe only our teacher Mrs. Hirst had one.

Afterwards, we went to observe what is known as a “clean room,” where scientists have to scrub up before going inside and where no outside pollutants are allowed in.

Stuff happens here
(Photo taken by Derek U.) Stuff happens here…
...lots of stuff
…lots of stuff (You know by now the photo is almost always taken by either Derek U. or Jordan J.)

In the clean room at the time my class went there, they were building the bus (really, it’s the infrastructure and general model for multi-production) for a satellite. I don’t why it’s called a bus.

A scientist dressed as Flavor Flav
A scientist dressed as Flavor Flav (Yep, photo taken by Jordan J.)
Fallen in the line of duty
Fallen in the line of duty (Wow, photo taken by Andy Torres that’s a change)

Next, we went to see another video (this one was in 3D; we got the appropriate glasses for it) in a different room that had a ton of computers and a big model of the Earth with ton of lines on its surface (we figured out later those lines were the paths of the multiple satellites that JPL had built). The computers allowed us to compare each satellite with a scientist and a bus (a school bus this time), as well as check the trajectory of them and make them move faster. Whatever we did to the satellites on the computers showed up on the model of the Earth.

Where we watched the 3D video
Where we watched the 3D video (Photo taken by–we’re back to Derek U. now)
Us actually watching it
Us actually watching it (Photo taken by–this time it’s Jordan J.)
The aforementioned Earth and whatnot
The aforementioned Earth and whatnot (Photo taken by Derek U.)

Then we had our lunches. Some of my friends who didn’t bring theirs got to go to the cafeteria. Because JPL is in Pasadena/La Cañada, there was an abundance of wildlife (fairly certain those have something to do with each other). Anyway, check out these deer we saw there:

So cute and majestic
So cute and majestic (Photo taken by Derek U.)
Lol
Lol (Hmm-hmm, Derek U. took this photo)

If I remember correctly, we all next went to see a presentation which accompanied an exclusive video not yet released to the public (I believe it’ll be on the Discovery Channel or maybe the History Channel).

The area where we saw the exclusive presentation and video and also a lot of really cool space thingies
The area where we saw the exclusive presentation and video and also a lot of really cool space thingies (Photo taken by Dillon Lombardo, cool)
Space thingies like moon rocks,
(Photo taken by Jordan J.) Space thingies like moon rocks,
 this stuff called aerogel (yes, it DOES like a transparent sugarcube),
this stuff called aerogel (yes, it DOES like a transparent sugarcube…Photo taken by Madison Pancake–awesome name, huh?),
    a CD called the Golden Record, we sent this into space in case any alien life-forms answered our many calls of communication and wanted to know about us,
a CD called the Golden Record, we sent this into space in case any alien life-forms answered our many calls of communication and wanted to know about us (Photo taken by Stevie Leonard) ,
(here’s a portion of the G.R. that’s titled—and plays—Sounds of the Earth, like nature and stuff…Photo taken by Stevie Leonard),
and a close up of the name on one of the first telescopes EVER!
and a close up of the name on one of the first telescopes EVER! (Photo taken by Madison Pancake)

My group went afterwards to this thing called THE GEODOME, which my buddy Edward Zakher described as a “stylish igloo.” And it was.

Part of the entrance. See? Totally stylish!
Part of the entrance. See? Totally stylish! (Photo taken by Derek U.)

Now pretending that you didn’t see that Illuminati symbol, I’ll be moving on to what we did inside THE GEODOME. Some of us laid down on the cold floor (we all had to at least sit—most couldn’t stand up and even if you could you found you didn’t want to). We saw a really cool 3D presentation that, a lot like most of the things we saw there, was a review of basic astronomy knowledge. Like how Saturn has rings, or how Earth is the perfect candidate for life. The presentation, in all honesty, felt the equivalent of watching someone control Google Sky right in front of your face. It was nice, though.

SFYFJa4btyUL5ve3DgXdKuaLnstPknRfLMwaEFPLgtt-vrMIy_LYX4CrORXHe0T_0w=w640-h360-n
One of the beautiful 3D planets we saw in THE GEODOME (Photo taken by Derek U.)

Next, the group I was in went to a room where we watched another video (I’m beginning to realize that we saw more videos than I thought we had). After that, we walked around the room and found models of the planets in our solar system over touchscreens. You could interact with the screens and learn fun facts about each planet. There was also a moon rock, which is pictured a few images above, a model of the telescope Galileo used when he was alive (same, but just the name on it), and other awesome stuff—here is where we saw Spirit/Opportunity and Sojourner. It was all presented to us by a scientist who worked there:

(The man in the center)
(The man in the center…Photo taken by Derek U.)

The last rotation for our group was to go back into the room we came from, look at some pictures and guess whether or not they were of Earth or Mars. It was actually pretty trippy how something could look so much like one and end up being an image of the other. Nonetheless, we looked at ten images, and I don’t know if it was sheer luck or what, but Eddie and I managed to get eight of them right. Which, awesomely, earned us a few prizes (all confidential, of course). You still got stuff if you got a point or two below eight, so a lot of people were happy. And the ones who didn’t earn anything did great anyway.

Also, famed academic personality Bill Nye the Science Guy was taking a tour of JPL when we were there, so we all got to meet and/or see him (probably because of the lucky peanut that Mrs. Hirst took).

Some of us taking a picture with him
Some of us taking a picture with him (Photo taken with Turner Lessard’s phone)

Finally, it was time to go. Not everyone in our school’s astronomy class got to come to JPL, and not everyone who came was in this last picture we took in front of it:

Yay!
Yay! (Photo probably taken by our tour guide, whose name was maybe John)