Visit at JPL

On Friday, within the frames of the iSAIRAS, we had a guided tour to JPS’s headquarters to Pasadena. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was founded within the California Institute of Technology in 1944 by the Hungarian engineer Theodore von Kármán and his rocket scientist colleagues. NASA took over in 1958, and JPL remained the most important research center for space robotics and automation eversince. Their biggest achievements include the Voyager 1-2, Galileo, Cassini spacecrafts and the Mars Exploration Rovers. We were given a brief introduction to these systems in the museum and visitor complex of the center. Probably the most important fact is that JPL operates the Mission Control Center of the Deep Space Network, the space communication system that keeps contact with up to 3000 spacecrafts a year through the 30-70 m wide antennas and attached communication facilities placed throughout the world. One center is in Madrid, another in Canberra and the third in California, allowing communication to any direction, in any time. The JPL facility operates as a telephone center, it collects and redistributes the com. lines and information flow. Currently, they are working on the next generation of space communication system that would resemble the internet a bit, as it could use any satellite on the way to relay the signals, and retransmit it.
Our next visit went to the indoors Mars Yard, where they had thoroughly tested the features of the MER robots. They still have an engineering model (fully operational, using 6000 pieces 26 MHz processors), to simulate particular missions and scenarios to assist Spirit and Opportunity. Our last visit went to the test facility where they assemble the spacecraft and expose to sever sound, RF and shaking tests before they are sent to the Kenney Space Center for final assembly before launch.
The JPL is usually a closed area for the public, it was really an honor to get a guided tour behind the scenes. Thanks go to the organizers who made all this possible!


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