Gigaom

Drive 15 minutes northeast of Los Angeles to the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab campus in Pasadena, California, and you might run into an unexpected resident: a nearly exact replica of the Curiosity rover, which is currently tens of millions of miles away exploring the surface of Mars.

A nearly exact replica of the Curiosity rover lives in a garage at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. It emerges about once a week to test new tasks and features. Photo by Signe Brewster. A nearly exact replica of the Curiosity rover lives in a garage at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. It emerges about once a week to test new tasks and features. Photo by Signe Brewster.

JPL sprawls across a sunny, leafy campus that is quiet until you step inside any of its laboratories. Since its roots in 1936 at the California Institute of Technology among a few students interested in rockets, the lab has grown to be NASA’s main location for spacecraft construction. The monkey-like RoboSimian robot, which is competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, calls it home. And nearly any NASA craft currently making its way through…

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