A towering 50-foot robot from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) will thrill
throngs of parade-goers lining the streets of Pasadena, Calif., New
Year’s Day.

Resembling a giant transformer toy, the massive float, entitled “Family
of Explorers,” honors nine Earth and space exploration missions managed
by JPL for NASA. The robot’s arms and legs are adorned with models of
each mission.

The missions include — the Cassini probe to Saturn; Stardust comet
sample return mission; Jason oceanography satellite; Genesis solar wind
sample return mission; Galaxy Evolution Explorer ultraviolet space
telescope; Spitzer Space Telescope; Gravity Recovery and Climate
Experiment to measure Earth’s gravitational field; and the venerable
twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

The Mars rovers form the robot’s “skates” as it rolls down Orange Grove
Avenue, Colorado and Sierra Madre Boulevards. The robot will wow the
crowds with special effects ranging from smoke from the robot’s
“rockets” to strobe lights and animation. A remote control Web camera
inside the robot’s head will provide an unprecedented view of the
parade route.

“This has been an extraordinary year for us, a great year of
exploration and discovery,” said JPL Director Dr. Charles Elachi. “Our
intent is to culminate this year and start the next year with another
amazing event. We at JPL pride ourselves on being one big family, so
what better way to celebrate our recent successes than with this Rose
Parade float, highlighting to millions of people around the world our
achievements in exploration on behalf of people everywhere,” he said.

The JPL and Caltech float is their first for the Tournament of Roses
Parade. The float was designed and built by Pasadena-based Phoenix
Decorating Company and its award-winning designer, Raul Rodriguez. A
joint JPL/Caltech float committee solicited design concepts from the
JPL community earlier this year and then worked with the builder to
select the final concept. Construction began in June. Caltech is
funding the float.

Hundreds of volunteers from JPL, Caltech, their families and friends,
and some local high school clubs are decorating the float. It is
covered from head to toe with flowers, seeds and other natural
materials. Decoration takes place at Rosemont Pavilion, next to the
Rose Bowl. Today and tomorrow crews are working from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
(PST), and on December 31, as late as needed, to complete the float.
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Video and images supporting this story are on NASA TV’s Video File
(news feed). Information about NASA TV and link to the Video File is
available at:


Views from the Web camera will be on the Internet during the parade at: