About 20 undergraduates in an EPSS Fiat Lux class had a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Friday April 22, 2016. Fiat Lux classes facilitate close interaction with a research professor, in a seminar setting with a very small class size. Prof. David Jewitt is teaching a course on Planetary Science, which includes the study of the planets, moons, asteroids and comets within our solar system and beyond. The highlight of the course is a field trip to a real NASA facility, meeting the main project scientist on the Mars Curiosity rover mission (an EPSS alum) and talking with the architects of the upcoming Europa orbiter mission to Jupiter's frozen moon. Students learned about critical elements in planning, funding, and building a planetary science mission, and even got to sit in the actual mission control room where hundreds of active NASA satellites are operated, including Voyager 1&2, Cassini and the Mars rovers.
JPL has strong ties to UCLA and offers extensive internships where students can work directly with engineers and mission scientists, giving them valuable experience and possibly even a job right out of college.