Honors Summer Snapshots: Allen

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2017 summer routines via photos. Honors senior Aerospace Engineering student Allen Wang is realizing a dream by spending his second summer at NASA, this time at JPL in California:

So I’ve spent this summer working at NASA JPL in the metro Los Angeles area! Although it’s called the “Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” they haven’t done jet propulsion in decades now. This is the NASA center that has done almost all their deep space spacecraft, most famously the Mars rovers and the Voyager probes. I’ve always dreamed of at least visiting here, and I feel obscenely lucky to get to spend a summer working at JPL.

I was really pleasantly surprised to find that the building I work in is right next to the “Mars Yard”, where they do all the testing on Earth for the rovers on Mars. It’s always cool to walk by and see what’s going on today!


They have an exact copy of all the rovers on Mars. This is “MAGGIE”, the twin of Curiosity!


This is the Deep Space Network control room, where communication with all of NASA’s spacecraft beyond the Earth-Moon system is managed. This includes the Voyager spacecraft, which are now more than 10 billion miles away!


This is the high-bay cleanroom, where countless spacecraft have been assembled. They just wrapped up InSight, a lander that is heading to Mars in 2018, and they are now assembling hardware for the Mars 2020 rover.


Mars 2020 will have a whole suite of new experiments, including one that will try to produce Oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. Another key mission is to package up samples for follow up missions to bring back to Earth. This is something many people at JPL want the agency to work towards. However, there are several other missions that have been assigned to them in the meantime. They are also working on a mission to fly by Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter which we have discovered has a liquid water ocean underneath a surface of ice. They’re also working on a lander that will drill through the surface to reach the water underneath and search for signs of life. Also, a contract was recently awarded for an asteroid hunting mission called Psyche. There are also a million and one smaller scientific projects going on right now. It’s a busy place!


Fourth of July weekend, a group of 8 of us interns made a pretty stupid decision. We decided to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states at 14,505 feet. Before the snow and ice melted off. We had to get crampons and ice axes; we felt like real mountaineers (except we didn’t really know what we were doing)!


Amazingly we all made it alive!


After summiting, we literally slid down the side of the mountain; it’s called ‘glissading’. Two people in the group got their hands hurt pretty bad going down. I had a close call when the lady above me lost control, started sliding down the mountain before crashing into me. Thankfully, I saw her coming and dug in with my ice axe. I didn’t die, yay.


And of course in California going to the beach is a necessity.



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