Thursday, August 12, 2010

NASA Athlete in the Arroyo

In the spring, I was fortunate to accompany my oldest son for a field trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although JPL offers yearly open houses, that trip was the first time I set foot on the campus. To get a behind the scenes tour with my son and his class was a real treat. A Mars Rover prototype was brought out for the kids. They were enlisted to act like rocks as the small vehicle rode over their supine bodies. They were able to peer down into master control while engineers worked on active space missions.

But nothing awakened their awe like ATHLETE, the All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer. At JPL, we visited the hanger where engineers were constructing a half-scale prototype of the future moon rover. The kids were invited to walk underneath it.

Photo by my oldest son.

When a friend told us that JPL was testing ATHLETE in the Arroyo Seco, the boys and I made a point to be there. Seeing the giant robot slowly rolling through the Arroyo definitely made an impression on my almost-three-year-old who now opens most conversations with friends and strangers alike by sharing his eyewitness account of ATHLETE in action.

JPL continues to test ATHLETE in the upper Arroyo near Hahamongna Watershed Park. Remaining test days are: 8/12, 8/16, 8/17, 8/19 with morning shifts (8AM-12:30PM) and afternoon shifts (12:30-5PM).

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