Every year, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory opens its doors to all Earthlings during its open house. This year’s event was themed “Great Journeys” and took visitors on a “ride” through the wonders of space over a two-day weekend for FREE. The event was a great place to learn a thing or two about astronomy but beware of long lines and exhaustion from heat and extensive walking.
When I first arrived at JPL, I was impressed by the beauty of the location of the facility. Nestled right next to the San Gabriel Mountains, the laboratory is in a great location. Unfortunately as it is in Pasadena, this also means that it is quite inland, and on these two days in early June, it was extremely humid outside. I was directed to park in the far lot, which made things much more confusing for me later on, as I entered the event from the back rather than its entrance.
Some of the highlights of the open house were the life-sized Mars Science laboratory, the spacecraft bound for Mars, demonstrations from numerous space missions, JPL’s machine shop, and the Microdevices Lab, where engineers and scientists use tiny technology to revolutionize space exploration. I also got a chance to explore the Earth Science Center, which screened 3D videos of our planet and earth science missions. In the lab, there was a large glowing orb with data from NASA’s Earth-orbiting satellites.
An event like this is clearly aimed at youth in an attempt to make science accessible to budding scientists and engineers. There were many opportunities to speak to actual professionals and hands-on activities specially designed for kids. One particular aspect I enjoyed was the mobile scavenger hunt, which asked for mobile phone users to look for QR codes all around the exhibits to unlock secret codes.
I also enjoyed watching JPL’s intro to the solar system and beyond. Unfortunately, since this event was only two days, the lines to go into every building and screening were incredibly long. Although some moved particularly fast, with the intense heat that I mentioned earlier, this was definitely frustrating. If you really want to see all of the different buildings, I recommend coming before noon to beat the heat and the crowd.
Overall, the JPL Open House is a great event to learn about science for both the robot geek and the casual fan as long as you can stand the heat and long lines. For more pictures from this event, check out our Facebook page. For all the latest summer events on a budget in Los Angeles, follow @SurvivingLA on Twitter. Stay tuned later this week for Steven’s post on cheap salsa lessons!