Here at AwesomeSauce, we have some pretty incredible family and friends. You should know, you are in that group!
There is Mama AwesomeSauce (AwesomeK’s Mom). Santos is the Head of the AwesomeSauce Fan Club. Sir Christopher is our official Mews Knight, and Protector of the Realm. Mr Hart is Head of Nerd-istics.
We may not have ever mentioned, however, the incredible Pants’. Mr. Fancy Pants (AwesomeK’s brother), is a world-class photographer, and is currently working as a Digital Strategist for Four Kitchens, which is one of the coolest sounding jobs ever. Ms. Smarty Pants (the Worlds Greatest Sister in Law) is literally a Rocket Scientist. Which isn’t intimidating at all. Her mind-blowing resume includes working at MIT, Ball Aerospace, and she is currently doing amazing space stuff with Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Yup. Our Sister in Law works at JPL. Again, not at all intimidating.
Our adventures landed us in sunny and fabulous Altadena, California, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from JPL!
What is JPL, you ask? One person there described it as the “Disneyland for Nerds.” Which is pretty accurate, actually. If you are unfamiliar with JPL, we recommend you watch the movie “The Martian” with Matt Damon (you could probably read the book, but as we have not actually read the book yet, we cannot say one way or another if JPL is featured. They probably are…). Poor Mr. Damon gets stuck on Mars, and the top scientists in the world have to figure out how to get him home again. Where does NASA go to find these top scientists? JPL! Who works there in real life? Ms. Smarty Pants! So…Ipso-Facto-Presto-Changeo, that makes Ms. Smarty Pants one of the world’s top scientists! Which she is. Which is slightly intimidating. If you want a REAL history of JPL, you can check that out HERE. Needless to say, some of the top scientists in the world are at JPL.
The Worlds Greatest Sister in Law, Ms. Pants, blew our minds recently by taking us on a personal guided tour of JPL!!! It truly is the Disneyland for Nerds. It was…hard to put into words just how truly Awesome it was. The campus itself is HUGE. JPL might as well be its own town. There are streets running through the campus, each named cool names (no we won’t tell you what), multiple cafes and cafeterias, two gift shops, at least one museum, their own fire and police departments, and SO MANY SCIENCE PLACES! All they need is on-campus housing, which they might have, but we weren’t privy to that information. We got a tour of the museum, and watched a quick movie about how JPL came up with, and executed, the Mars landing for Curiosity. We saw a cube of Aerogel – the worlds lightest solid – that was used to collect meteor dust on the Stardust Mission. The best part of the museum was that we got to see some of the projects that Smarty worked on! Actual space missions, like Kepler and Maven. Her official super amazing space missions are: GOES-R (and the computer they used was named Zuul. THAT is how awesome she is!), Deep Impact, Spitzer Space Telescope, WorldView 3, MAVEN, TSIS, NPOESS, Kepler, OTB, and LADEE.
On our tour, we saw replicas of Curiosity, the Mars Rovers, and SMAP – the Soil Moisture Massive Passive that unfolds in space, and calculates the Earths moisture levels! We got a good look at what the wheels of Rover looked like, because they use 3D printed versions of them as sign post holders, which is pretty rad.
The Worlds Greatest Sister in Law then took us over to the COMMAND CENTER! We got to see the door to Launch Command, and look through a window. Which was AMAZING! Then we went up some sneaky stairs and got to see where the Deepspace Network was! There were a ton of screens and huge monitors on the wall (yes, like in TV), all monitoring different satellites and missions. You could see data coming in and data going out and sort of what was happening! That area is manned 24 hours a day, always collecting and sending data, monitoring missions, and doing a whole lot more stuff we aren’t allowed to talk about here. IT WAS AWESOME!!
The next stop was to sneak a peek into one of the Clean Rooms. Everyone that goes into a Clean Room has to wear what was affectionately refered to as a Bunny Suit, which consisted of a mask, hat, coat, and booties in this case. They can be full suits with full masks sometimes, like a clean hazmat suit. The clean room we went to was not the “cleanest” of the clean rooms, which was evident from the Bunny Suits, and this room was allowed to have 10,000 particles (of whatever there are particles of…here is a technical site that explains stuff) per cubic foot of air. For some perspective, there are usually 1,250,000 particles in a cubic square of air. Some cleaner clean rooms can only have 1000, or 100 particles per cubic foot! The temperature and moisture are also closely monitored, always kept cool, and there must be a certain amount of humidity so that static electricity doesn’t build up and fry the electronics. The air is circulated through filters in the ceiling, pushed through the room, and collected at through more filters in the floor. In her past, Smarty has worked in a clean room – and was a little nostalgic remembering her time there, until she remembered how uncomfortable the full hazmat type bunny suits are.
We didn’t get to see the official workspace of Smarty, but she DID point out her building! It was large, brown, and had no windows. There, she is currently working on the Mars2020 Mission! Each piece of a satellite, or Rover, or mission, usually has its own team. There are teams for Every. Single. Piece. The drill and drill bits that drill into the ground, that collect samples to analyze. The camera on the drill. The arm that the drill is on. The wheels, the windows, the everything. It is truly awesome!
On our walk we noticed a group of young men huddled in a corner, under a tree. Smarty chuckled and said that was one of many Pokemon Go gyms. Apparently there are a few gyms, and spots, on the JPL campus! The greatest minds in the world, huddled together on a break, training their Pokemon was a fun sight to see. Turns out rocket scientists are just like everyone else! Well, almost.
Speaking of work, after our AMAZING tour, the Worlds Greatest Sister in Law had to grab a very quick noms, then was off to a super secret mission meeting. We squeezed her (but not until her eyes popped out, she needs those for science), thanked her profusely, then we parted ways. We did a little shopping in the super cool JPL/NASA gift shop, then headed on our way.
If YOU want to get onto a tour of JPL (granted, not a personal guided tour from Smarty), just click this LINK to find out more! Be sure to plan WELL in advance, as tours are usually booked at least six months out.
We want to give a HUGE thank you to Ms. Smarty Pants, the Worlds Greatest Sister In Law, for the personal tour of the Disneyland for Nerds! Getting to be at JPL was the tour of a lifetime, and we couldn’t be more impressed! Thank you!!!!
AwesomeSauce Rating: ARE YOU KIDDING?! This is the Spades Royal Flush. This is the best of the best.