To infinity and beyond at JPL

From left, Jennifer Cole, Lisa Sobien and Dave Mason visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which took this out-of-this-world photo of them. (Courtesy Jennifer Cole)
Lisa Sobien, left, and Jennifer Cole visit JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory. (Photo by Dave Mason)
Lisa Sobien visits the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The clean room, which is behind her, is where the 2020 Mars rover is being assembled. (Photo by Dave Mason)
The 2020 Mars mission spacecraft and other components, such as its rover, are being assembled at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Photo by Dave Mason)

By Fleet Capt. Dave Mason

PASADENA — Let’s fly a helicopter on Mars!

That’s among the goals for the next Martian mission, in which a large rover will be sent to the Red Planet in 2020. The mission will also include the launch of the first helicopter in the Martian atmosphere.

Kimberly, a systems engineer with an astrophysics background, was all smiles as she talked about the mission with Lisa Sobien and me at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Jennifer Cole and Jeremy Kranz also participated in the USS Angeles mission to the NASA facility’s annual open house May 19.

Kimberly talked about details such as using a small robotic helicopter for an enhanced survey of Mars. She noted that the rover would be lowered with cables from a descent vehicle.

The mission is scheduled to launch on July 17, 2020, and land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. JPL plans to look for signs of past microbial life and perform other research.

We listened to Kimberly as we waited in a line to see the assembly clean room (from the other side of a glassed wall, of course). That’s where we saw the pieces of the mission, including the rover and the spacecraft that will take it to Mars.

Earlier, I saw the clean room with Jennifer Cole. Before that, Jennifer, Jeremy and I spent some time in Mission Control, the center of the universe overseeing NASA’s unmanned missions throughout the solar system. (And with the Voyager crafts, beyond the solar system!)

Jennifer and I saw a detailed movie about JPL’s missions. And Jennifer, Lisa and I explored the Microdevices Laboratory and exhibits on missions in a tour of the solar system.

It was a fun day as we took a one-day trip around our neighboring planets. This is where the real star treks begin! More on our mission will be reported in the September issue of Angels Flight, available to members. Just click on Join us!

Kimberly, a systems engineer who has worked on the 2020 Martian rover, is excited about the mission and shared details with visitors waiting to see where the rover/probe is being assembled. (Photo by Dave Mason)

Dave Mason

Commanding Officer, USS Angeles NCC-71840