As I mentioned briefly at the end of my last post, I got to tour the Lunar Surface Operation Testbed (LSOT), which is the facility that JPL uses to simulate low gravity and test the large ATHLETE Rover.
Now, when I say large, I mean HUGE! The prototype being tested is a whopping four meters tall when the rover’s legs are fully extended. Four meters?! And that’s just the prototype. The actual rover, which was going to the Moon, but might now go to Mars or a Near-Earth Asteroid, will be nearly double that height: 8 meters! :D Yes, I am in awe of this humongous beast. :) I’m 5’2” (1.6 meters), so you can see the size difference is evident, even when the rover’s leg is folded up. xD (The JPLers working on it let us take pictures)
^ The cables you see behind me are what JPL uses to suspend the rover to simulate low gravity.
^ Another view of ATHLETE’s folded leg
ATHLETE isn’t the only giant roving around. At the beginning of the summer, we got to see theMars Science Laboratory(MSL – also known as “Curiosity”) being packed to be shipped to Cape Canaveral (in FL) for its launch in November. During our orientation talks, we were encouraged to go see it before it was shipped off the next week. I really wanted to see it, so I rushed over there after lunch the first day! xD We didn’t actually get to go inside the clean room, but we did get to watch up close as the JPLers in their pristine,white bunny suitswrapped the large rover in a golden saran wrap-type material. There was also one suited person walking around with a large video camera, filming the JPLers as they worked. I always wondered who took those videos! I watched them religiously off of NASA’s website when I was in high school. Now I don’t need the videos! I can see everything up-close. :)
MSL, though smaller than ATHLETE, is still the size of a large car, an SUV perhaps. You can see the difference in size between this new Mars rover and the previous ones:
And here is the wheel that JPL plans on using for ATHLETE:
If you read my last post - in other words if you haven’t, read it! :) - you probably know what I’m going to say next. These experiences (standing next to ATHLETE’s giant legs, seeing new pieces of technology and where prototypes are tested, and watching a soon-to-be launched rover be packed for shipment) all gave me the “closer” feeling. It’s surreal to know that I get to work at the place where all these missions really start!
_ <– “star”struck face. Get it? Stars in space that leave me in awe and the asterisks are star-like too! haha
Until next time! :)
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. For those unfamiliar, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative medicines.
With 45 Nobel Laureates on its Faculty Roster, it’s not surprising that research is an integral part of the Caltech undergraduate experience. One of the programs that promotes such research is the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). There is no minimum knowledge or experience required to participate in a Caltech SURF. In fact, students can participate in a SURF as soon as the summer after their freshman year. It is not difficult to get a SURF. All you need to do is find a mentor who is working in an area of research that interests you and willing to mentor you through a research project. The mentor can work in a Caltech lab, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), or at another participating institution. Once you find a mentor, you work together to write a project proposal that you later send to the SURF office for review and approval. About 98% of the SURF proposals get approved. This fellowship is a great way to explore various fields of research and obtain real, hands-on experience where you get to apply the theoretical knowledge you’ve learned in class. Not only do you get to work and learn alongside your mentor, but you also get compensated for your time. The length of the SURF is ten weeks, and it starts at the beginning of the summer. However, it is not uncommon for many students at Caltech to continue their research project throughout the academic school year.
Like many students at Caltech, I suffer from a slight boba addiction, where side effects may include over caffeination, minor sugar highs, and of course, a large toll on one’s wallet. This addiction is not helped by the fact that there are at least three boba shops within walking distance of campus. So, after an entire term’s worth of boba runs, I came back from winter break with a new year’s epiphany: it was time to get a job. Rather than try to curb my addiction, I decided to find a way to subsidize it.