ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 14, 2012)—A group of approximately 5,000 Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees and their families were guests of Santa Anita Park in the track’s Infield Sunday as the group celebrated the recent successful Mars landing of the space rover Curiosity.

“We did five missions this year and Curiosity was the culmination of it,” said Gene Tattini, deputy director of JPL. “It was a great feeling for us all and to be honest, we feel a sense of relief.” <

When Tattini, a retired 3-star Air Force general who has been with JPL for nearly 12 years, was asked about the well-publicized surface street trek that the Space Shuttle’s Endeavor is currently taking through Los Angeles, he acknowledged that JPL has a more than casual interest.

“We’re all part of the NASA family,” said Tattini. “To see the Shuttle generating this much interest is fantastic. And to see it moving through neighborhoods that were damaged by the riots 20 years ago is especially gratifying.

“To see people in those areas lining the streets and celebrating American ingenuity is very special. Hopefully, this will help to motivate kids to stay in school and to major in math and science.”

What factors led JPL to The Great Race Place?

“After Curiosity landed on Mars, we decided to have a big celebration,” said JPL Director Charles Elachi. “We started talking to our employees about it and a lot of people said Santa Anita would be perfect. We’re having a great time.”

Elachi explained that Curiosity is “about the size of a car,” and that “as we speak, it is roving around Mars, looking for water and oxygen.”

When if asked if there were any remote possibility that Curiosity could somehow foretell race results at Santa Anita, Elachi replied, “We had good luck landing it on Mars, so it might be able to pick a winner.”

Welcome to The Great Space Place!