Jet Propulsion Laboratory Nasa- Pasadena California
This is NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in Pasadena, California, photographed just after sunset . It is the premier center for robotic exploration of the solar system.
JPL's history goes back to the tumultuous years leading up to World War II. Rockets were then perceived as devices of fantasy, seen only in movie serials and comic strips like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. In the autumn of 1936, a group of enterprising young men from Pasadena decided to risk their reputations and give engineering substance to rocket fantasy. The "rocket boys" were an unusual bunch. Frank Malina was studying aerodynamics at the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Jack Parsons was a self-taught chemist, and Ed Forman was an excellent mechanic. They scraped together cheap engine parts, and on October 31, 1936, drove to an isolated area called the Arroyo Seco (near today's JPL) at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. Four times that day they tried to test fire their small rocket motor. On the last attempt, they accidentally set fire to their oxygen line, which whipped around shooting fire! These were the first rocket experiments in the history of JPL. They tried again on November 15, 1936, and their experiment finally worked!!!
Often referred to as NASA's Crown Jewel, JPL has been trailblazing space exploration ever since it was established by Caltech in the 1930s. America's first satellite, Explorer 1 which launched in 1958, was developed at JPL. In the decades that followed, JPL sent the first robotic craft to the moon and out across the solar system, exploring all of the planets.
Here are some recent noteworthy JPL accomplishments. In August 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover, designed and built at JPL, made a heart-pounding and technically pitch-perfect landing on Mars, setting the stage for a two-year mission to determine if the planet could have ever hosted life. In June 2012, JPL-built X-ray telescope NuSTAR was launched for surveying black holes a billion times more massive than our Sun, to understand how particles are accelerated to almost the speed of light in active galaxies, and understand how elements are created in explosions of massive stars. In September, the Dawn spacecraft, which spent more than a year orbiting the asteroid belt's second largest object, the protoplanet Vesta, used ion propulsion to embark on a flight to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. In December 2012, the twin GRAIL spacecraft marked an exciting end to their mission gravity-mapping Earth's moon as they intentionally crash-landed into the lunar surface.
There are many other JPL missions currently operating across the solar system. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is returning exceptionally detailed photos of the surface of the red planet, while the Mars Exploration Rover mission keeps going way beyond the original 90-day "warranty period." The flagship explorer Cassini continues its orbits of Saturn, scrutinizing the ringed planet and its moons. The Voyager missions, launched in 1977, are exploring the edges of our solar system. Space-borne telescopes look out beyond the planets to stars and galaxies beyond - among them are the Spitzer Space Telescope, Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, and the European-teamed Planck mission. Closer to home, Earth-orbiting satellites monitor the lands, oceans and atmosphere of our own planet, returning important information on topics ranging from atmospheric ozone to El Nino events.
In total, JPL has 19 spacecraft and 9 instruments conducting active missions. All of these are important parts of NASA's program of exploration of Earth, the solar system and the universe beyond. In addition to these, JPL also conducts a number of space technology demonstrations in support of national security and develops technologies for uses on Earth in fields from public safety to medicine, capitalizing on NASA's investment in space technology.
JPL has an open house once a year on a Saturday and Sunday in May or June, when the public is invited to tour the facilities and see live demonstrations of JPL science and technology. More limited private tours are also available throughout the year. Thousands of schoolchildren from Southern California and elsewhere visit the JPL campus every year.
(Info from jpl.nasa.gov and wikipedia.org)
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December 20th, 2013
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