Visiting JPL's high bay clean room with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
They weren’t going to Mars, so Emily Lakdawalla and I didn’t have to be sealed into extreme bunny suits on August 13th as we were when we visited Curiosity a couple of years ago. But JPL was understandably still nervous about loose hairs and dust mucking up SMAP or ISS RapidScat, so we gladly slipped on booties, gauzy hats, and white smocks. A blast of air in the lock, and we were back in the Lab’s High Bay 1. You can see and hear the result on this week’s Planetary Radio, and in Emily’s great blog account. I was also up late last night throwing together a quick video that includes our conversations with key team members for both of these radar missions.
The NASA center invited media to see the spacecraft while they were still in the bits and pieces stage, with components carefully arrayed throughout the huge room. We were also there to follow and question the agency’s boss. Administrator Charles Bolden was an enthusiastic tourist, guided by JPL Director Charles Elachi. I was happy to throw a few questions at the two Charlies when they paused for a short, informal press conference. That exchange isn’t in the video (I was too busy holding and using our microphone), but you’ll hear part of it on PlanRad. To learn more about the fascinating, Earthward-gazing spacecraft, check out either the radio show or the video.