Tuesday, June 7, 2011

JPL Tweetup-Tastic!

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I am so exhausted right now, I'm actually a bit surprised I am able to sit upright and type, LOL... what a ride! In so many different ways. I drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles to revisit the amazing Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this time for a media event with a good chunk of the SpaceTweep society -- and a few innocent bystanders who wanted to know what all the fuss is about.

Deep Space Network Mission Control
The drive through a 400-mile-long rainstorm was no easy feat, but I made it in one piece; lucky for all of us, the next day gifted us with beautiful blue skies, tours of awesome NASA relics and novelties... and enough mission updates to keep nerd brains buzzing for days!

We had space enthusiasts from all over the US and Canada, who got their fill of all the great NASA hardware at the JPL, and heard all the hot news about the Dawn mission, the upcoming launches of Aquarius and GRAIL, long term plans for Juno, the ongoing process of the ever-famous Voyager probes, and of course, the "Asteroid Watch" activities of the Near-Earth Objects Program.

Space Flight Operations Facility
The many walking tours throughout the day included trips to the Mars 3D green-screen, the Earth Sciences Centre, Mars rovers labs and the Deep Space Network mission control in the historic Space Flight Operations Facility. All the geekery goodness can be found in my NASA JPL Picasa galleries.

A major highlight of the day was meeting @Doug_Ellison, whom I've followed on Twitter for some time. I cannot get enough of his new project, Eyes on the Solar System, a 3-D environment of continually updated NASA mission data, which he demonstrated in luscious big-screen detail.

Farewell to SpiritDoug and few other creative cohorts arranged for perhaps the most stunning group photo ever, whereby they created a giant panorama portrait of Mars, taken by the now-retired Spirit Rover. Broken up into separate printouts to give a "mosaic" effect, we each held a small poster above our heads, and the final product spelled out: Farewell to Spirit 2004 - 2010.

The full-sized original can be found on the JPL Flickr Stream.

Doug Ellison and Camilla SDO
He also paused to pose with me and my particular puzzle-piece, a lovely heart -- which in itself was a mosaic of pictures taken by Spirit over the years. I cannot wait to have this framed! @Camilla_SDO joined us, waving to everyone like the true space enthusiast she is.

All in all, a truly amazing day at the JPL, one that none of us will forget soon! Interestingly, I still haven't seen anything relating to JET propulsion... but hey, there's still hope. Tomorrow, onto NASA Dryden!

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