At 10:31pm Sunday night Caltech stood still to witness history.JPLscientist, including Caltech students, alumni, and professors, succeeded in landing a chemistry lab the size of a car on Mars.Curiosityfor space has a whole new meaning.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a viewing of the landing for JPL employees that was hosted by thePlanetary Society, the “largest and most influential public space organization group on Earth.” I was quite surprised when our welcome speaker walked out and it was the guy on the left.
BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY!!!!! If you don’t know who this is, then you’re childhood was deprived of awesomeness.
Apparently now that he’s not a tv star, he’s CEO of the Planetary Society.
After listening to my childhood science hero talk about the wonders of space for half an hour, we started watching NASA’s live stream coverage and endured one of the most intense two hours of my life. Like I said earlier, I was in an auditorium of JPL employees. Arguably the only people more invested in the success of this mission were the guys in mission control who we were watching.
The craziest thing about the entire landing was that nothing went wrong. Just look at how insane this landing was. Heat shield, parachute, radar, thrusters, and a sky crane. 900 m/s to 0 in seven minutes. If you want to be picky, someone pointed out to me that they did not start receiving telemetry data as early as they had hoped, but they still basically had signal from the rover for the entire descent. And the Odyssey satellite was in perfect position to assist with communication and capture some sick photos of the rover decelerating by parachute(which I’ve heard was orange and white for Caltech).
That rover got a more enthusiastic standing ovation than any stage performance I’ve ever seen. When the first pictures came, in the crowd erupted again. Everything about that landing was so satisfying. It was a seemingly ridiculous project that was planned and executed so perfectly that it succeeded. And I got to watch it with a group of friends who are spending their summers working with the people who made it happen.
So Curiosity, now that you’ve stuck the landing, what can you tell us about the red planet?
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.