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Observing from JPL

Jane Houston Jones


“Whole walls on every floor are painted with planetscapes, festooned with flybys, pasted with posters and splattered with stars.”



The Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF) at JPL is the destination point for all the data beamed back to earth via NASA's worldwide Deep Space Network (DSN) - from NASA's planetary and earth-orbiting spacecraft as well as spacecraft of other space agencies around the world. The SFOF is also the departure point for real time commands to spacecraft.

The SFOF, constructed in 1964, was designated a historic landmark in 1986 by the US Department of the Interior. The facility is designed to support and protect critical spaceflight operations activities and data in the event of a general power outage, earthquake or other disaster.

It is also where I work. My first day of work, Monday November 24th, was like everybody's first day at work...almost. I drove onto Oak Grove Road from the 210 freeway near Pasadena, CA, and parked in the visitor parking lot. From there I walked to the visitor center, where the public JPL public tours originate. The eight new JPL employees that Monday morning arrived and were ushered into an auditorium for orientation, paperwork and a welcome from the JPL deputy director General Tattini.

Then it was off to the Red Planet cafe for lunch. Soon I was clearing space and finding my desk in the historic Space Flight Operations Facility. It was covered with scale models of half a dozen spacecraft currently or previously touring the solar system. And layers of bookmarks, DVDs of Saturn, Mars and Venus missions, lithographs, posters, Saturn Program pocket references and other cool stuff.

I took a walk around the building and gazed in wonder at the "darkroom," the circular hub of monitors and mission teams also known as the Deep Space Operations Center. A little later I visited Cassini Mission Control and watched monitors showing communications with the Cassini spacecraft. Ironically, the flight operations engineer for Cassini is also a sidewalk astronomer and a member of the JPL Astronomy club.

Whole walls on every floor are painted with planetscapes, festooned with flybys, pasted with posters and splattered with stars.

As soon as I get a little more settled, I'll tell you about the Cassini mission outreach programs I will be managing, and request those of you who like this sort of thing to join me! Until then, enjoy and share a view of Saturn!

Cassini Mission Control

Order outreach material here

JPL tours

Images of Canberra Deep Space Network; Grand tour of NSW, Australia observatories


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