Continuing our quest to become even bigger space nerds, Camille, Lindsay, and I toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory yesterday. It's a NASA facility that is in charge of unmanned missions into space. So the Mars Curiosity rover? That was them. Cassini out at Saturn, Galileo at Jupiter, and Voyager 1 that is now well beyond our solar system, all built and controlled by JPL. We were with a pretty large group but this is how we knew we were amongst friends, everyone asked if we could keep the tour lanyards. You know you can comfortably spend several hours with strangers when they see the importance of a lanyard.
1. The place is teeming with bearded space nerds. This is just a slice of heaven for me.
2. We got to see the BSNs working on a satellite that will be launched into Earth's orbit in January. It's called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) and, in a nut shell, it will monitor weather. While we were checking it out the project manager wandered by and we were able to get the details of it. Like where the parts were manufactured. Let's hope the Russians don't find out I know this information. The PM didn't have a beard but he did have a speech impediment, which may be just as great.
3. Here's a fun fact about Voyager 1: it is one of the fastest moving man-made objects in space. It goes just under 1 million miles A DAY. That's a lot of miles. And yet it will still take 40,000 years for it to be closer to the closest star than it is to our sun. We have got to get moving on this warp drive business. We are never going to be prepared to fight the Klingons at this rate.
4. Another fun fact about Voyager 1: it has a gold record on it that contains a collection of sights and sounds from Earth. Jazz, thunder, Beethoven, some kind of ethnic drumming, what sounds like someone opening a candy bar wrapper. And then a bunch of scientists talking about space stuff. You can actually listen to all 5+ hours here. It was put on there on the off chance an alien comes across it in the vastness of space. Isn't that just the dreamiest thing you've ever heard of? But I will say for something that was created in the 70s, there is a shocking lack of Abba on it.
5. We had the absolute worst tour guide. Curtis. I wanted to shoot my foot off every time he opened his mouth. First, he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth but talked at hyper-speed. And second he repeated everything he said at least 5 times. Here's some classic Curtis: "This is a 1/3 model, which means it's 3 times smaller than the actual satellite. And the actual satellite is 3 times larger than what you see here. Because it's a 1/3 model." He would then say this again just to make sure we got it. And then a third time to make sure we had lost our will to live. He was the Voyager 1 of tour guides, he went really fast without getting anywhere. My absolute favorite moment was when Camille asked a question about a counter we saw in Mission Control that turned out to be Greenwich Mean Time and Curtis spent a few minutes explaining how clocks work, "Do you see these numbers that are showing 51, then 52, then 53, then 54? Those are seconds. Right next to them are the minutes. And then the hours." Did you get that? Don't worry, he'll cover it again. Fortunately, we were just happy to be there and were excited to see everything, so Curtis didn't ruin it for us. But sweet land of liberty!