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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: Robots, Science Experiments And Mars Rovers At JPL

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This past weekend, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory opened its door to the public as part of its annual meet-and-greet with the masses. Titled "Explore JPL," the sold-out, two-day event was packed with visitors who arrived with their dreams of interplanetary exploration.

The spread was just as we'd expected. Models of vaunted spacecrafts such as the Cassini and the Juno (which just completed another flyby of Jupiter and took some awesome photos) were put on display. And there were hands-on experiments in which visitors got to generate clouds and play with electricity. Some also agreed to lay on the ground as a rover rolled over their backs; we imagine it to be as therapeutic as it is novel/weird. And speaking of the rover, land-based robots also had a strong showing (check out the hulking, kind-of-terrifying "King Louie" that's equipped with four limbs and the ability to climb out of vehicles).

Another interesting bit was the jar of "lucky peanuts" that was put on display. If you think all scientists are adverse to superstition, you're in the wrong, as these peanuts are believed to be some of the luckiest peanuts on this side of the cosmos. As noted at JPL, after suffering a string of six failed missions, engineers on the Ranger 7 mission passed out peanuts on launch day as a pleasant distraction. The Ranger 7 mission performed swimmingly, and peanuts would be cemented as a lucky talisman for future missions.

Missed out on the event? There'll be another one next spring, of course, and you can sign up for JPL's mailing list to get updates on when tickets will be available.