May 18, 2003
JPL Open House

[jpl in the hills]

The JPL open house was pretty cool. The Jet Propulsion Lab is located in a somewhat isolated area northwest of Pasadena (northeast of LA). It was founded by Jack Parsons in 1944, which was apparently the beginning of a pretty crazy time in LA. Jack Parsons, Aleister Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard hung out together, performed sex-magick rites out in the desert, stole each others wives and money, and expanded the frontiers of rocket science. A quote from some random web page describes the “huge mansion that Parsons inherited in 1942, which he promptly filled with a cast of aspiring warlocks and science-fiction freaks. Parsons scandalised the neighbourhood with noisy love feasts and turned his bedroom into a temple.”

[jack parsons and friends blow some shit up]

This scene, in the JPL mall, is a recreation of an important test of a liquid-fueled rocket motor by Parsons and colleagues. (It took place on Halloween, 1936. Hm.)

[jpl bug robot] [jpl-modded irobot urbie] [jpl autonomous helicopter]

There were a lot of fun technology exhibits, but I was mostly there to see the robots. JPL is the NASA center in charge of unmanned space exploration, so they do a lot of robots. My favorite was the autonomous helicopter. It uses vision to look at the terrain below it and select a good landing site.

[carl sagan memorial plaque at jpl]

Overall I was quite impressed with the amount of effort NASA put into the open house. There were lots of exhibits, with scientists doing a good job of describing the projects they actually worked on in an interesting way.

Posted by jjwiseman at May 18, 2003 09:22 PM
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