Sometimes I feel like Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the popular kid when it comes to NASA science. They operate things like all the Mars missions and the Voyagers and Cassini and I get kind of jealous.
But NASA’s biggest science facility is right here in Maryland, where I work: Goddard Space Flight Center. Aside from being named after rocketry badass Robert Goddard, GSFC also has some impressive missions under its belt. From top:
- Hubble Space Telescope. HST was built at Goddard in the world’s largest laminar flow clean room. The same place that the next generation James Webb Space Telescope is being assembled. Hubble mission operations are all conducted through space telescope mission control here at GSFC.
- The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), was built at and operated from GSFC. WMAP mapped the cosmic microwave background—the echo of the Big Bang—with unprecedented accuracy, and determined the age of universe. I work in the microwave cosmology group, and WMAP is a point of great pride for us.
- New Horizons is on its way to Pluto! While most of NASA’s planetary missions are run by JPL, New Horizons is mostly a child of GSFC. We’re all rooting for it to do a good job.
- The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was born and raised at Goddard, and it is operated from here. LRO has taken the highest resolution images of the moon to date. It is able to see the tracks of footprints left by the Apollo astronauts when they visited the moon.
- The GOES weather satellites are Goddard missions. All of the satellite weather images that we take for granted are possible because of this network of geostationary spacecraft. One of Goddard’s primary goals is to observe the Earth from space to learn about our own planet and make decisions about how to be better stewards of this world.
So yeah, we’re not as pretty or as popular as JPL, but we do some pretty awesome stuff. Don’t knock it!