Governor visits JPL campus, calls Curiosity mission 'important for California'
He congratulates NASA scientists and defends government investment in space.
Gov. Jerry Brown, far right, takes a look at a model of the Mars rover Curiosity during a tour of the JPL campus. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Staff Photographer / August 22, 2012)
Flanked by Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau, JPL Director Charles Elachi and other science leaders, Brown acknowledged his nickname, Gov. Moonbeam, met some of the scientists and engineers who successfully landed the rover Curiosity on Mars Aug. 5 , looked at photos taken by the rover, and addressed a group of more than 400 JPL workers.
“I'm very grateful, every one of you, for what you're doing,” he said. “It's important for California. It's important for our country. It's important for the world. It's important for the future.”
“You are really in the forefront,” he added.
On Thursday, JPL will get a visit from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Brown acknowledged that he didn't take any science courses in college, but reminisced about his involvement with the space industry over the years and the reputation he earned for proposing far-out ideas during his first term as governor, from 1975 to 1983.
“I talked a little bit too much about space, and then they came to think I might be a little spacey,” he said. “There's a lot of other ingredients in my moonbeamship.”
Brown learned a little bit about the Red Planet during his visit. Jessica Samuels, a JPL engineer, explained to him how a sol, or Martian day, is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth. He donned a white lab coat to view a full-scale model of Curiosity in a sand testbed.
Brown declared Wednesday as Space Day in California in honor of the Curiosity mission, though he also said such proclamations don't mean much.
He defended government investment in science, and in projects such as a high-speed rail even during a time of deficits and cuts to core services.
“If the idea is when you've got a problem you don't do anything, then you shut this place down, that's stupid,” he said. “You've got to do more than one thing. We have to invest as well, as we take care of all these other problems.”
“JPL and this mission just demonstrates anew what the full potential of California is,” he said.
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