Sunday, May 16, 2010

#122: NASA's JPL Open House

Mission Control

Mission Control, We have lift off!

Yesterday was a scorcher in Pasadena... Enough to make a west sider wilt and cry for her coconut water. We got to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab at around 2:30 pm (first mistake) for their much acclaimed Open House. JPL only opens its doors to the public for two days of the year, and we had some burning questions that needed answered (i.e. "What should we do to prepare for the sun exploding in six years?" "What happened to the city on the dark side of the moon?" and "Which studio in Burbank did they film Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon?")

At 2:30, parking was abundant, but required a 5 minute uphill trek to the laboratories. It was unbelievably hot, I had no hat (mistake #2), and I only brought half a cup of water (mistake #3).

We headed into the first exhibit we saw--the microtechnology lab--mainly because it was too hot to stay outside. Here, we got to see the labs where they made small microscopic things. (Can you tell I didn't really read the informative signs they posted?) We then met up with a friend who was in line at Deep Space Operations--aka mission control.

After waiting in line for 45 minutes, we got into the building (yay!) only to wait in another line (aw) for another 20 minutes.

Line outside
Line inside

Then we finally got to see mission control, which was the coolest part of our visit. I took a picture of a guy down there working on something... important... Zoom and enhance!

To sum it all up, long lines + heat = not so much fun.

So why did I include the JPL Open House on my list of "amazing unforgettable things to do in L.A.?" One man's misery is another man's pleasure. Take, for example, the four college guys in line in front of us at Deep Space whose enthusiasm (read: nerdiness) for space even surprised the JPL workers. One guy's "This is Awwwwsome!!!!" trembled with such excitement and anticipation, like a little kid waiting in line at Disney Land. The guy in line behind us decked out in a gray JPL t-shirt and JPL hat was, I'm sure, just as thrilled.

So if you are a science nerd, or if you don't mind long lines (it actually looks like a cooler day today), then head out to JPL now!

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