Hanging out with robots and astrophysicists!

be3n at JPL Spacecraft Assembly FacilityI visited JPL yesterday for their anual open house.  I got to see many of their amazing toys.  We even got to the spacecraft assembly facility.  A giant clean room where the final assembly of their spacecrafts, probes, satellites and landers take place.  For a room that is roughly 50 years old, it looks bran spank’n new.  How do you maintain a clean room with a giant door big enough for a spacecraft to fit in?  well, first off the giant door opens to an airlock.  Second, the pressure is actually higher inside the clean room then outside.  this way, if any air escapes, it is clean air escaping the clean room and not the other way round.  I also learned about JPL/NASA’s spin on one of my favorite inventions, the Tweel!  it’s a combination tire/wheel.  It actually resembles a bicycle wheel more then a car wheel in that it is suspended by the spokes from the top rather then held up from the bottom.  Apparently, rubber doesn’t do so well i a vacuum or in the cold (forgive me, i grew up in LA).  That is why they make theirs out of some kind of space aged glass polymer.  neat stuff.  here are some photos.  enjoy.

JPL Spacecraft Assembly FacilityJPL TweelJPL RobotJPL Robots

Space Contractors Not War (Defense) Contractors

i like that NASA is going to contract out manned space travel to private contractors. Applied Composites, I’m looking in your direction. I’ll admit that NASA can land a probe anywhere they want, but the shuttle was a bad idea even 20 years ago. Who thought it was a good idea to haul a huge gas tank *almost* into space, just to send it hurtling back to earth. It’s not like we can use that for a space station or moon base.