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August 20, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
Two weeks after landing the Curiosity rover on Mars without a hitch, scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory learned that their InSight mission to study the Martian interior had received the go-ahead from NASA. InSight - short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - will use a lander to understand how Mars, Earth and other rocky planets were formed in the early days of the solar system. Planned to launch in March 2016 and reach Mars six months later, the lander would operate for 720 days and give the Red Planet the equivalent of a doctor's physical - checking its pulse, gauging its reflexes and taking its temperature.
August 13, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
President Obama called up the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday to congratulate scientists on successfully landing the most advanced rover ever sent to the Red Planet. The president, who called the Mars Science Laboratory mission team members “examples of American know-how and ingenuity,” pledged to protect such investments into the future, talked mohawks, Martians and future manned missions to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory rover, also known as Curiosity, touched down on the Martian surface Aug. 5. The $2.5-billion mission, managed by JPL in La Cañada-Flintridge, has an advanced set of tools to explore the planet's surface, from a rock-blasting laser to a chemical laboratory that allows it to ingest and "taste" samples' chemical makeup.
August 10, 2012 | By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times
Although it boasts having "Earth's biggest selection," Inc.'s reach has stretched to Mars. Better known for being an e-commerce giant, Amazon has become a major player in cloud computing, with NASA'sJet Propulsion Laboratory using the company's Amazon Web Services to store images and data collected from the Mars Exploration Rover and Mars Science Laboratory missions. With so much large-scale data processing to be done, JPL is leading the adoption of cloud computing in the federal government, said Khawaja Shams, manager for data services at La Canada Flintridge-based JPL. "At this point, JPL's data centers are filled to capacity, so we're looking for ways to cost-effectively expand the computational horsepower that we have at our disposal," he said.
August 7, 2012 | By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times
At 10:24 p.m. PDT Sunday night, the Curiosity rover splashed into the Martian atmosphere at more than 13,000 mph. Then, for a moment, it appeared that NASA's nickname for Curiosity's daring landing sequence - "seven minutes of terror" - was coming true. Inside mission control, an alarm flashed on engineers' computer screens warning that Curiosity was coming in at the wrong angle, a potentially fatal development that engineers could not correct because the landing was entirely automated.
August 6, 2012 | By Amina Khan
The mood was exuberant at Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sunday night after scientists and engineers watched their one-ton rover execute a complex series of maneuvers and land as gracefully as an Olympic gymnast. "So that rocked. Seriously! Woo!" said Richard Cook, deputy project manager for the Mars Science Laboratory, as the punched upward with both fists, a sign of victory. Cook reminisced about how far they had come since the 1997 Pathfinder mission, which sent the first rover, Sojourner, to skitter around the Martian surface.
August 6, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
As the rover descended to the surface of Mars last night, Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau was doing something that no other university president gets to do: He was in mission control, his heart racing.  “It was the most exciting event of my entire life,” Chameau said in an interview Monday. “It's hard to describe the experience, the pressure that exists in that room. It was emotional, and it was draining. I can tell you that my colleagues at other universities should be envious.”  JPL, which runs the Curiosity mission, is a division of Caltech, and a number of the scientists and engineers on the Curiosity team are Caltech professors.
August 6, 2012 | By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times
  Curiosity, the largest and most advanced spacecraft ever sent to another planet, stuck its extraordinary landing Sunday night in triumphant and flawless fashion, and is poised to begin its pioneering, two-year hunt for the building blocks of life - signs that Earth's creatures may not be not alone in the universe. NASA's $2.5-billion mission involved the work of more than 5,000 people from 37 states, some of whom had labored for 10 years to hear the two words that Al Chen, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer, said inside mission control at 10:32 p.m.: “Touchdown confirmed.” Chen reported that Curiosity was in a “nice flat place,” and as icing on the cake, the spacecraft sent home thumbnail photographs of itself.
August 3, 2012
Live Mars rover coverage
July 14, 2012 | By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times
Three weeks from tonight, an amiable, whip-smart engineer named Ray Baker will be staring into his computer screen at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hopeful and helpless - or, as he puts it, "sweating blood. " The night will have been 10 years and $2.5 billion in the making, incorporating the work of 5,000 people in 37 states. And then, 154 million miles from home, the fate of the most ambitious machine humans have sent to another planet will rest on a seven-minute landing sequence so far-fetched it looks like something Wile E. Coyote devised to catch the Road Runner.
July 12, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
At Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada-Flintridge, experts are gearing up for the Mars rover Curiosity to touch down on the red planet at 10:31 p.m. on Aug. 5. But not everyone at JPL who's supporting the mission is a planetary scientist or aerospace engineer. Arguably, the coolest job at the lab belongs to John Beck, the filmmaker behind the “7 Minutes of Terror” video that is one of the most-watched offerings on YouTube. The video is fast-paced and set to dramatic music.
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