Today we had the privilege of being escorted on a private, interesting, fun, and extremely educational tour of JPL by our very own engineer/space guru, Mr. P. J. Guske.
When he discovered we were studying astronomy earlier this year, he quickly offered, "If you would like to visit JPL, just let me know and I will set it up." So - we did! And it was a GREAT day!
After visiting this facility with 1,000 other children and chaperones about eight years ago, I was beyond thrilled to be the only people on the tour. And, almost, the only non-employees on the campus! The visitor center, museum, and other exhibits were EMPTY, which meant our kids could actually look at, touch, listen to, and interact with every single exhibit. It was WONderful!
When Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie saw the (not to scale) models of spacecraft (Voyager, Cassini, Juno) at our first stop, they were beside themselves with excitement. They ran back and forth between them shouting things like, "Mom! This is the one that orbits Jupiter! Do you remember studying that?"
As their teacher, I was beyond pleased that they remembered our studies!
It was a thrill to see a full-size model of Galileo, but even better was learning that it was P. J.'s very first project at JPL! Galileo was launched in 1989, the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter.
(P. J.'s current project is the Mars Sample Return, the details of which I will not even try to explain as I am still trying to wrap my brain around what he must resolve to make it a success.)
One of the funniest parts of the day was when he explained his former project (ARM), which involved landing spacecraft on an asteroid, collecting and securing a boulder, launching said boulder from the asteroid to be secured by astronauts (somewhere in space) and then brought back to earth to be studied. As soon as he finished, I started laughing out loud at his casual manner of delivery.
"So it's as simple as that huh? Nevermind the atmospheric changes, the different gravitational pulls, the speed of rotation and revolution of the planets and moons, the thousands of moving rocks, ice and debris floating throughout, and the gazillion variables possible between launch and recovery.
Nooooo problem!" <insert three adults laughing here!>
That is one of my favorite things about our friend. He is brilliant - yet personal, real, and FUN!
The (empty) museum was the highlight for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie. They LOVED it!
The first American satellite launched into orbit in February 1958, Explorer 1.
The Spacecraft Assembly Facility
Too many details to share, but worth an internet search for it is quite fascinating!
Mars Curiosity Rover, a model.
Best story about this:
Curiosity's tires have unique holes in them. In addition to helping it keep from getting stuck in the sand, the pattern of the holes was a sneaky way to leave JPL's mark on Mars. The holes are Morse Code for the letters J-P-L. (Dennis guffawed when he heard this! Hilarious!)
Since Dennis grew up with a rocket scientist for a father, he was more excited than any of us to be in this place. A scientist/engineer he is not, but he has a deep interest in the space world.
When I asked, "Are you having a good time?" he responded, "Are you KIDDING? This is a-MA-zing!"
Mission Control - where they talk to robots, not humans.
(aka The Center of the Universe)
JPL is able to talk with spacecraft through its Deep Space Network,
a network of antennas stationed around the world.
This was the last thing we saw during our tour - and Dennis loved the phrase.
We stood in the room for a few minutes thinking about how to apply this motto to the Christian life.
At first, we thought of mighty men in Scripture who dared to do great things for God. Things no one else was willing to do. When we got home, I was curious to find verses to support the motto.
And imagine - as with everything else in life - God's Word provided!
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Psalm 126:3
Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.
For consider what great things He has done for you. I Samuel 12:24
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21
✦Thank you, P.J., for a truly wonderful day!✦