NASA and Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) opened its doors to the public once again this weekend, after budget cuts forced the beloved open house to go on hiatus last year. The wait was worth it, though: This year’s event coincided with the assembly of the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, which was on display in the clean room ahead of its launch in January. Guests on the Pasadena campus were also able to catch a glimpse of a working version of InSight, the next Mars-bound robot, as well as a behind the scenes look at Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) technology, a flying saucer-like means of slowing down spacecraft for Mars landings. Elsewhere on the Pasadena campus, guests toured the machine shop, walked through mission control, and spent quality time with rover prototypes.
The backup to get into the campus stretched to over an hour and the lines for some experiences approached Disneyland levels, but we're not complaining. It's heartening to see so many people excited by science in our own backyard. But how about we run a shuttle bus next time to cut down on traffic? Or move the event to February when the sun isn't quite so searing? We're sure the answer to both of those questions is "budget," but if anyone has a mastery on managing transit and weather, it's NASA.