Pasadena: A ticket to explore NASA JPL

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also known as JPL, is a unique national research facility that carries out robotic space and Earth science missions. JPL is a federally funded research and development center managed for NASA by Caltech University.

Every year JPL hosts a 2-day open house that is open to the public.  The event is free, but tickets are required.  Stephen and I went last year, so we knew what to expect this time. For one thing, tickets go “on sale” in March.  They sold out within hours, but if you are patient, and check back regularly, people will discard their tickets and you can pick them up.  I was able to get tickets for 8:30 am on Sunday, which is probably the best time slot you can get.

We arrived at 8:15 am and already there was a line to get in.  The Open House is not a tour. JPL gives you a map and you roam freely around their campus to check out exhibits or presentations.  They encouraged participants to visit for wait times at the various exhibits.


Stephen and I went to the Micro Devices Laboratory, where we got an infrared photo of ourselves with MDL’s QWIP camera.  Afterwards, we ducked into building 17 for the Solar System Exploration, where they had scaled down versions of their projects and featured applications that we could download online.

We stayed in building 17 for about an hour, before heading to the other side of the campus, going into various auditoriums to watch video presentations such as “Journey to the Planet and Beyond” narrated by Harrison Ford.

After the various videos, we stopped at the Mobility and Robotic Technology, where we watched demonstrations of actual robotics, had lunch and then made our way to The Universe Center where we took a photo of us at Mars.

Our last stop was at the NASA photo booth, where we received a professional photo to download as a souvenir. Even though it was over 90 degrees, we had a good time and look forward to attending again next year.


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