Saturday, May 2, 2009

JPL Open House

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the open house event today at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) in Pasadena (Saturday and Sunday, May 2 & 3, 2009). Driving over to JPL, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of how popular the event would be since science has fallen out of favor in the population for the past 8 years. To my surprise, the open house was packed with people of all walks of life. But what was a complete surprise was that about half of the people in attendance were kids! As a result, the event is a perfect topic for this blog.

JPL is campus-like place, very similar in layout to a university. It is owned and operated by Caltech. The venues of the open house were spread out all over JPL. Since this was my first visit to the internal areas of JPL, I took the opportunity to explore the campus thoroughly. This was probably fortuitous because the lines to get into pretty much all of the venues snaked around for a long way, translating into at least an hour wait.

The venues provided an inside glimpse of hardcore science. Some of the venues were - Deep Space Operations, Journey through the Solar System, Mars Exploration, Spacecraft Assembly Facility, Robotic Technologies and my favorite Universe Plaza: Exploring New Worlds. In addition, there were many ongoing children’s activities. And if the event attendees got hungry, there were ample numbers of food kiosks, sorry no space-themed faire, just regular old burgers, tacos, and corn dogs.

The attendees of the open house had an overwhelming feeling of enthusiasm for all the science on display. Over and over again I overheard exclamations such as “That is so cool!” and the kids really got involved in the demonstrations such as the small makeshift rover vehicle that drove right over the backs of about 20 children lined up on the ground.

As I walked around the grounds observing the thousands of people on hand for a day of science and space exploration I reflected about how gratifying it is to see that science is still accepted as something exciting enough to invest time on your day off. Bully for science, space, and fun-packed day at JPL!

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