If we're ever going to see astronauts living on Mars like we did in the 2015 film "The Martian," the groundwork for such a mission will come from an unusual facility in Southern California.

Just five miles north of Pasadena, NASA's Jet Propulsion Center (JPL) is where researchers dream up and build spacecraft to explore space from millions of miles away — including wheeled rovers that take photos from the Martian surface:

mars curiosity rover selfieNASA-JPL

Tech Insider recently took a tour of JPL, which is about a 15-minute drive from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech for short).

Here's what we saw.

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