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Exploring The Final Frontier At The 2011 Jet Propulsion Laboratory Open House

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With each passing year, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Open House in Pasadena becomes a "can't miss" event for more and more people. This year's theme was "The Excitement of Exploration," and the two-day event (May 14-15) hosted more than 38,000 visitors.

The Spacecraft Assembly Facility was one of the most popular attractions. It provided a fantastic view of JPL's largest "clean room," which showcased the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, in preparation mode for its Cape Canaveral launch in November 2011. According to JPL:

"Curiosity will carry the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars' surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers. Its assignment: Investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life."

This year's Mission Control tour got up close and personal. In the past, visitors have viewed the room from a window above, but this new tour went into the heart of the action. Even the process of waiting in line to see Mission Control was fun, as scientists from NASA's Deep Space Network in Spain, Australia and the United States were on hand to answer questions.

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In addition to all those who explored the JPL campus in person, more 27,000 people from around the world "attended" Open House via live steaming video (the archives of which are viewable via UStream).

If you'd like to stay up-to-date on the latest news, check out the JPL and Curiosity Twitter pages. In addition, through June 13, visit this page to have your name included on a microchip that will be sent to Mars when Curiosity blasts off later this year.