Ted Iskenderian, JPL technical group engineer, signs his autograph for Tadde Natorssian, 13, at Chamlian Armenian School in Glendale.

Ted Iskenderian, JPL technical group engineer, signs his autograph for Tadde Natorssian, 13, at Chamlian Armenian School in Glendale. (Tim Berger/Staff photographer / November 6, 2012)

Several Armenian engineers who helped launch the Curiosity rover to Mars this past summer were celebrated during a visit Monday afternoon at Chamlian Armenian School, where they shared stories about their work.

Engineer Arbi Karapetian brought along face masks, full body suits and booties — the everyday outerwear of the rover scientists during the seven years they assembled Curiosity at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

“Imagine working like this 12 hours a day,” Karapetian said.

Karapetian — who helped design the rover — was one of several Armenian engineers who told the story of Curiosity, from assembly to launch.

“To this day, we have not brought back any rocks from Mars,” he said. “That’s something we’d like to do.”

In one video he shared, several people in white “bunny” suits observed the rover’s wheels spin during the first-ever test drive.

A second video showed footage of the rover’s final descent after traveling 357 miles in eight months from its launch off Cape Canaveral.

He also spoke of the instruments built on the arm and “in the belly” of the rover such as the laser capable of vaporizing rocks to collect information on the chemicals they’re made of.

“Hopefully, in 15, 20 years, one of you guys will be an astronaut who goes to Mars and we want to make sure we give you the right space suit,” he said.

Human safety depends on knowing how much of the Martian environment is filled with radiation — the purpose of the radiation detector on the rover.

A neutron detection instrument on the rover was made by Russians.

One visiting engineer included Armen Toorian, who worked on Curiosity’s 38 engines.

Ted Iskenderian, who has worked on various projects at JPL for the past 28 years — including Cassini and Galileo — said he always enjoys sharing his work with kids.

“They ask so many really good questions and they’re so enthusiastic about space,” he said. “To be with kids, it reminds me of how I felt when I was their age."

--

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan