Co-Worker: “So this is the Mars Yard.”
Me: (trying to be all cool inside) Oh!
CW: “This is where they simulate Mars’s terrian with the spare rovers to test out programming.”
Me: “So, this is like the real Mars surface.”
Me: (fighting the inner Geek Boy from exploding, but still staying calm) “Oh”
CW: “Yeah, that shed there has all the replicas of the real things.”
Me: (picturing the level of awesome on the other side of the luckiest corrugated aluminum walls yet still trying to be as calm and professional as I can be) “neat”
CW: “And do you know Star Wars?”
Me: (scoffing on the inside, but staying calm) “I’ve heard of it”
CW: “You saw Force Awakens right?”
Me: “Of course.”
CW: “You know BB-8?”
Me: “The droid?”
CW: “He was here. The real one, they had him on the Mars Yard with the Rovers.”
Me: (looking down at the ground where Star Wars props once stood beneath my feet, the damn finally bursts) “SQWEEEEEEEE”
Going to an engineering college, I was always surrounded by the geekiest of geeks, the nerdiest of nerds. And I am not describing the hipster millennial nerds who think that slapping a pair of dark rimmed glasses on when you do your vintage gastropub crawls around Portland; or anyone who says “I’m a real nerd for crochet / vinyl / Harry Potter”, or anyone who is tagged a ‘nerd/geek’ even though they are socially outgoing & extroverted (see also the whole cast of TV’s Big Bang Theory) — I mean real geeks, real nerds. The one thing I tried to be was the cool kid among the geeks. It was pretty easy sometimes, because let’s face it … they are geeks. But it was also hard sometimes because, let’s face it … I’m one of them. I go full on Geek Boy at some point when surrounded by what I find to be the coolest of the coolness.
The trap that exists is that I am on the cusp of full on Geek Boy on a daily basis. Ever since I was a kid, I had an interest on what lay beyond our planet, and half the reason I pursued a job at JPL was because I ticked off the coolest of the coolest, and it was right at the top. For me working at JPL … it’s like letting someone who is obsessed about shoes work at a Foot Locker … or a teenage boy work at a porn shop … or a person interested in intestinal diseases work at a McDonalds. It is ready to trip me into Geek Mode with every picture hanging on every wall.
As part of my incoming, we took a little tour around the lab this week – which included the exchange at the Mars Yard. We also visited the Hi-Bay Assembly building – where every project over the last 30 years was put together, where literally history was built. We also visited the museum where mock-ups of all the projects were on display, including full scale models of Explorer I (the first US satellite and answer to Sputnik), Juno (the current project spinning around Jupiter), and Voyager 1 (the furthest traveling man made object in history, currently outside of our Solar System cruising along as it has for nearly 40 years) … just to name a few. We even visited Mission Control … not named to copy a place like Houston’s Mission Control … named because it is where they (get this) control the current JPL missions.
Someday, I may blog a more expanded version of all that information .. but for now … just picture me rolling around on a red sandy soil somewhere on the JPL campus squealing like a school girl in hopes that all that space stuff sticks.