West Coast Challengers descended on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, CA, this weekend. Headquarters for much of the systems used in space exploration by NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory or JPL as it is commonly referred to as, sits on some 177 acres (owned by NASA) just north of Pasadena, CA.

Nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is in charge of managing JPL for NASA and it employs over 5,000 people in the process of doing so.

Some of JPL’s most recent projects include the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Cassini mission to Saturn, the Dawn mission to the dwarf planet Ceres and to the asteroid Vesta, the Juno spacecraft currently en route to Jupiter, and the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission to the Moon.

Curiosity is set to land on Mars next month. Seeing a mock up of this spacecraft up close, we can tell you that is 10 times the size of much smaller Mars rovers that are still sending back data well beyond what scientists thought would be their effective use range.

West Coast Challengers and some 30,000 other visitors took advantage of this annual open house, where JPL and NASA opens their doors, invites the public in, and makes available its employees to answer questions from the public. This was a two day event, and we were told that, for a few hours, many were turned away because the facility had reached maximum occupancy. Luckily for us, we have a club member who works at the facility and he directed us to the best place to park. We drove in and drove out without so much as a problem, which was fantastic.

Maps of the various buildings and exhibits on display were handed out to everyone entering the grounds making for finding a certain exhibit extremely easy. We found all of the JPL employees courteous and very knowledgeable in their area of expertise.

After a few hours of touring the JPL facility and seeing some of the great projects, we were left simply in awe of mankind’s scientific endeavors and accomplishments.

More pictures from the club’s tour of JPL can be found in our club photo gallery.

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