Southern Cal

Open House at NASA’s JPL 

Every year NASA’S JPL has an open house, and this year it was held June 4-5, 2016.

The event is free, and JPL posted the information on Facebook, including the update on Saturday that tickets were still available on Sunday.  We picked the 11:30 appointment time since the drive would take about an hour.

When we got off the freeway, there were signs directing us to JPL.  The event was organized, even down to the parking (which was also free). When we approached the entrance, the staff checked our bags like they do at any sporting or theme park event.

As we walked through the gate, the JPL staff handed each person a reusable black JPL tote bag and a map. I thought the JPL Open House was a guided tour where they lead you on a 2 hour walk, sort of like they do on a university campus. Not the case! It was like going to any convention or fan fest, where you decide where you want to go. We stopped at the Information Desk for assistance, the JPL staff highlighted some areas on the map, and said if we pair it up with the “Explore JPL” web app, we could figure out which attractions had the shortest line.

We ducked into a building which had no line, and even stopped at the backdrops for selfies and photo ops.  The lines were actually shorter than posted. One line was supposed to be 60 minutes, but when I clocked it, it was only 29 minutes.

Highlights of our visit include:

– Space flight operations facility. This is where Mission Control is at, and we’ve seen this on TV. At the end of the tour you get the “I’VE BEEN TO THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE” sticker.

– The view of the clean room at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility Highbay.1. That’s where they finalized Juno before launching it to Jupiter.

– Going through the Micro devices Laboratory, then getting an infrared photo of us, using MDL’s QWIP camera

– And taking a break with Bill Nye, the Science Guy’s video “Why With Nye” followed by a free photo booth session

The event was over at 4:00, and I would say we completed about 70% of the event. I didn’t know that there was so much to see and do. There was plenty of food and drinks, all reasonably priced. They hired plenty of vendors to serve up a variety of food, from Vegan, to Mexican to Pizza to Burgers, and even the tantalizing Kettle Corn.

Thumbs up!! I would recommend arriving early (I think the first appointment is 8:30 am?) and see as much as you can. It’s not ONLY for the nerds or science enthusiasts. Even a liberal arts person like me got a lot out of it, and had a great time learning.

Categories: Southern Cal, Travel