Today we visited the Center of the Universe, and I have a lovely sticker to prove it. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). SELF Alumna Sarah Elizabeth McCandless was our tour guide.
Sarah Elizabeth is a 2012 graduate from KU and now works as a Navigation Engineer at JPL. We started the day learning about Cassini, which began its Grand Finale in late April of this year. Launched in October 1997, Cassini is running out of fuel. Scientists and engineers at JPL decided to utilize the remaining fuel to make 22 loops between Saturn and the innermost ring. This is closer than we have ever come before to the surface.
We later learned about Curiosity and the mission to Mars. We stood in the very places where the first exclamations of joy were made as Curiosity successfully landed in Mars’ Gale Crater in 2012. We even had the opportunity to hear from Steve Collins, an Attitude Control Engineer, Miguel San Martin, Chief Engineer for guidance, navigation and control, and Adam Steltzner, Chief Engineer. They each worked on a part of Curiosity and were instrumental in its success, as all are in a collaborative project such as this.
In addition to massive amounts of information about space flight, we learned about the work on a future Mars mission and the planned Europa Clipper. It is intended to provide a detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa to determine if conditions could be suitable for life.
We were able to talk to a plethora of knowledgeable people and learn about projects that were enthralling to many of us.