Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This summer, I went out to ~California~ for a few days… and when I told my super cool friend Rosa from JSC that I was going, she was super excited that I’d be so close to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Rosa was so nice and connected me with her super cool friend Melissa, a JPL engineer.

When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was super excited: the weather was more than tolerable, and beautiful, majestic mountains framed the (admittedly congested) highways.  In Pasadena, I ate a very late breakfast (those waffles were sooo good!) before heading down the street to JPL.

“Are you Marisa?”

“Yeah, that’s me!”

Melissa welcomed me to JPL and helped me get signed in, and then we walked over to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility. Spacecraft like Juno, an orbiter of the planet Jupiter, are put together in this room, and they are huge! If Juno were in this room, it wouldn’t be able to fully expand its arms.

JPL’s image of Curiosity assembly in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility

I also got to learn about and see what’s happening with the development of lots of Earth missions. Melissa told me that a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of what JPL studies is about Earth and helps us understand trends and use this information to help us. One such project is the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which aims to observe global atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory

Melissa took me to see the Museum at JPL. It was so interesting to see the history and evolution of JPL tied together with details about our Solar System and beyond by the missions of JPL. There were so many scale models, including one of Cassini, an orbiter of Saturn. I asked Melissa about specific materials innovation necessary for an orbiter designed to explore a region with a lot of potentially hazardous debris, and she was so awesome about answering all of my many questions and expanding my curiosity (no pun intended).

JPL Museum

The Space Flight Operations Facility was for sure of the most interesting places I got to visit at JPL. This mission control center is responsible for communication with pretty much all interplanetary and deep space exploration for NASA and other space agencies, and it’s where Melissa gets to spend a lot of her time when her code is used in mission critical operations.  (Fun fact: JPL’s Space Flight Operations Facility is the center of the universe, apparently)

The Center of the Universe

After we checked out the Space Flight Operations Facility, we sat outside and talked for a while, and Melissa gave me a lot of really great advice. Maybe it’s just because JPL is half-college half-NASA, but it really felt like we were on a college campus, which was a really welcoming feeling. I’m actually super glad I got to meet Melissa; she was so nice about everything and had such a contagious positive energy that left me motivated to keep working hard towards the future I want to see.*

Me & Melissa

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