Gov. Jerry Brown visited Jet Propulsion Laboratory Wednesday to congratulate staffers on their successful landing of the Mars rover Curiosity and its first test drive completed earlier in the day.
Brown declared "Space Day" in California, a repeat of a proclamation he had issued some 30 years ago during his first administration before the first flight of the Space Shuttle. It was an exciting time then, and he convened great scientists, poets and others.
"Of course I talked a little bit too much about space, and they thought I might be a little spacey, and that's where I got the monicker, 'Governor Moonbeam,'" Brown explained.
In his remarks to a few hundred JPL employees, Brown showed frustration that a state whose scientists can place a vehicle on Mars cannot field a slate of legislators who can govern without undue conflict. He said he wished he could coordinate the state legislature the way a maestro conducted a recent musical concert.
He also called the NASA JPL space program, "The moral equivalent of war," because its existence stimulated American advances in science, engineering and productivity in employment in the same way that World War II did in California. "It stimulates the same kind of long hours, the same kind of energy and breakthroughs."
He reminded the JPL staffers that their work inspired children worldwide and urged them to find the mid-point between extremes of discipline and creativity. "Are you for rigor or for imagination? You need both."
The most recent innovation, the Mars rover Curiosity — which resembles a six-wheeled dune buggy -- left tire tracks earlier in the day on the Red Planet’s rocky surface. Brown accompanied JPL's top scientists on a tour of the space mission's control room and donned a white lab coat for a close-up look at a full-scale model of the rover.