A few days ago, I got to tour NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology campus and it was AMAZING. This tour was sponsored by Cornell University’s Southern California Alumni Association but the same tour is offered to the general public as well. Note: You must submit your names at least three weeks in advance and present photo identification to gain entry to the tour. Passports for non US citizens are accepted. You can visit JPL’s website for more information.
The tour starts off with a multimedia presentation entitled, “Journey to the Planets and Beyond,” at the Von Karman Visitor’s Center. There, you can also view full scale replicas of the Galileo spacecraft, Mars Curiosity, Mars Exploration and Mars Pathfinder Rovers and scale models of the Cassini, Voyager and Mars Exploration Orbiter. The tour continues to the Space Flight Operations Center (Mission Control) to see where scientists and engineers control and communicate with the dozens of spacecraft out in space. And finally, visit the Spacecraft Assembly Facility and witness the newest spacecraft, SMAP, being built. SMAP is set to be launched in 2014.
The tour lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours and you walk about .8 miles. Bring some comfortable walking shoes. The pictures below don’t do the place any justice. I highly recommend you visit it in person if you’re as big a space dork as I am.
Mars Exploration Orbiter
Mars Exploration and Pathfinder Rovers
Rover test area
Spacecraft Assembly Facility