NASA’s JPL leads USS Angeles through outer space

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory stays in communication with NASA’s unmanned crafts at its Mission Control, aka the Space Flight Operations Facility.  (Photo by Dave Mason)
From left, Susan Goldarreh, Jennifer Cole, Dave Mason and Lisa Sobien gather in the Mission Control lobby at JPL. (Photo by a JPL representative)
Cassini took this photo of Saturn. (JPL photo)
A mock-up of the InSight probe, now on its way to Mars, stands at the JPL open house. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Scraggly lines on JPL screens mark active communication from spacecrafts. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Jennifer Cole, left, and Lisa Sobien keep the Earth steady in its orbit around the sun at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Visitors posed with various posters at the Explore JPL open house. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Lisa Sobien points to a mock-up of the Cassini probe, which ended its long mission last year with a deliberate crash into Saturn. It retrieved data right to its end and sent back its final image of the planet. (Photo by Dave Mason)

By Fleet Capt. Dave Mason
PASADENA — USS Angeles members journeyed to the center of the universe during Explore JPL.
Susan Goldarreh, Jennifer Cole, Lisa Sobien and I entered Mission Control, aka the Space Flight Operations Facility, during an open house June 8 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL representatives told us we were essentially at the center of the universe because Mission Control is where JPL stays in communication with NASA’s unmanned spacecrafts.
The latest craft is the InSight probe, which launched in May from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County. The probe will study Mars’ seismic activity, mantle and core.
We saw a mock-up of the InSight craft at the open house. We also went through the visitors center to see mock-ups of the Sojourner and Pathfinder rovers on Mar, the Galileo probe that went to Jupiter and Cassini’s photos of Saturn. We saw a mock-up of Cassini in a nearby theater, where we saw a video on JPL missions.
We also explored an exhibit on probes overseeing Earth and topics such as coral reefs and global warming. That’s where we met Timothy Roberts, a JPL systems engineer who dressed as astronaut Taylor (Charlton Heston) from the “Planet of the Apes” (1968).
Roberts encouraged us to talk with the scientists and engineers at the open house, which marked NASA’s 60th anniversary. He explained the open house was similar to an art exhibit where you meet Picasso and ask him to elaborate on his approach to art.
We enjoyed our time at the open house and learned a lot. There was too much to see in one day, but that’s OK. It takes time to explore the universe.

jPL systems engineer Timothy Roberts talks about the NASA lab. He dressed as Taylor, the astronaut Charlton Heston played in the “Planet of the Apes” (1968).

Dave Mason

Commanding Officer, USS Angeles NCC-71840