Feature: NASA's JPL open house event attracts thousands of space fans
Children lay down on the floor to let a small robot roll past their bodies at the JPL open house in Los Angeles, the United States, on Oct. 10, 2015. The two-day open house of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) started on Saturday and expected to attract 20,000 people per day. (Xinhua/Xue Ying)
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Space afficionados, who have queued for long hours, braving a scorching sun that sent the temperature above 37 degrees Celsius, seem still patient -- just to get a chance to see the latest technology and exploration in the space.
Saturday is the first day of the annual open house event at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The two-day event is expected to attract 20,000 visitors daily.
Highlights of this year's exhibits include a life-size model of Mars Science Laboratory, demonstrations from numerous space missions, JPL's machine shop, where robotic spacecraft parts are built, and the Microdevices Lab, where engineers and scientists use tiny technology to revolutionize space exploration.
Just on Friday, Ashwin Vasavada, a Mars Science Laboratory project scientist at JPL in Pasadena, Southern California, confirmed to media that lakes existed on Mars some 3.8 billion to 3.3 billion years ago. The conclusion came from data collected in the past three years by the Curiosity rover which was designed, built, launched and operated under collaboration of JPL and NASA's other departments. There is a detailed introduction of the rover in the "Mars Exploration" exhibition during the open house event.
The exhibition also includes a full-scale model of the InSight lander, NASA's next mission to Mars, and visitors can learn how it will "see" down to Mars' core.
"It's cool," said Ethan, a six-year-old boy from Irvine in Southern California, standing in front of the InSight model which is about four to five meters long and more than two meters high with shiny metal cover.
JPL said previous missions to Mars have investigated the surface history of the red planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet's earliest evolution -- its building blocks -- which can only be found by looking far below the surface. So InSight was designed and built to find it out. It will be launched in March next year and is expected to land on Mars in September.
"I really want to know if there was any life on Mars before, and what are the other differences between it and our Earth besides the color," said Ethan.
Young students and kids are active in the open house event, asking all kinds of questions. They were allowed to feel the static electricity and learn how to control it. And almost every one of them want to lie down to let a rolling robot to climb over their bodies.
"There's a lot of fun here," said 38-year-old Eleen Marchell who brought her 14-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son to have a taste of "space exploration" at the open house.
Even adults enjoy the exhibits. Martin Brussell discussed with his friends about how the communication systems in spacecrafts work.
"Everybody has limited knowledge, but everyone can have unlimited curiosity," said Brussell with a big smile.