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Jet Propulsion Laboratory Archives: Past Slice of History Posts

Guide for accessing all types of materials in the JPL Archives.

January 2024

P-2380B

Explorer 1 became the first successfully launched satellite by the United States when it was sent to space on 31 January 1958. A quick response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1, Explorer 1’s success marked the beginning of the US Space Age.

The satellite, which was designed, built, and operated by JPL, carried a cosmic ray detector (the satellite’s primary science instrument), which directly led to Principal Investigator Dr. James Van Allen’s discovery of radiation belts around Earth held in place by the planet’s magnetic field.

The success of Explorer 1 and other satellites that soon followed in 1958 led Congress to pass the National Aeronautics and Space Act that summer, which was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and NASA officially opened its doors in October 1958.

After more than 58,000 Earth orbits, Explorer 1 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and was destroyed. The satellite made its final transmission to Earth on 23 May 1958.

Bonus: On the fifth anniversary of Explorer 1’s launch, JPL had a party and cut an anniversary cake! CL#23-6584

Explorer 1 became the first successfully launched satellite by the United States when it was sent to space on 31 January 1958. A quick response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1, Explorer 1’s success marked the beginning of the US Space Age.

The satellite, which was designed, built, and operated by JPL, carried a cosmic ray detector (the satellite’s primary science instrument), which directly led to Principal Investigator Dr. James Van Allen’s discovery of radiation belts around Earth held in place by the planet’s magnetic field.

The success of Explorer 1 and other satellites that soon followed in 1958 led Congress to pass the National Aeronautics and Space Act that summer, which was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and NASA officially opened its doors in October 1958.

After more than 58,000 Earth orbits, Explorer 1 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and was destroyed. The satellite made its final transmission to Earth on 23 May 1958.

Bonus: On the fifth anniversary of Explorer 1’s launch, JPL had a party and cut an anniversary cake! CL#23-6584

August 2023

JPL-10185

35 years ago,  JPL gained a cultural mascot: our very own Voltage the Raccoon! Voltage became famous amongst Lab because of her late-night escapade around the grounds that resulted in a shocking electrocution on 30 August 1988.

Noted by Dick House as an “unauthorized interloper” to the contrasting grounds of high-tech JPL amongst its very natural surroundings, Voltage was a six-month-old, fifteen pound visitor that found her way onto a high-voltage line of the Lab’s main power station - her zap was so significant it even knocked out power to the Lab for about ninety minutes! Electrical maintenance staff discovered Voltage with all four feet and muzzle seriously burned, and she was whisked away to the nearby San Fernando Wildlife Waystation where she was cared for, and eventually returned to the mountains, but far enough away to avoid another “electrifying encounter.”

Voltage’s survival and safe return to the mountains caused a media frenzy, and she remains a hopeful highlight of JPL’s electric past and present. CL#22-6248

May 2023

P-26433A

According to the November 1983 issue of Universe, “The sights, the sounds and the spectacle of JPL’s many ethnic, cultural and religious heritages fused into a colorful panorama around the warm and sunny Mall as the 1983 American Heritage Week was celebrated. Costumed dancers and musicians presented the cultures of many lands, as well as the regional folkways of America. Highlight of the week-long noon-time celebrations was the serving of foods unique to regions…The week’s festivities were organized under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs (ACMA).”

Today, inclusivity remains top of mind, and it's important to continue to celebrate how differences actively connect us all across the Lab - closing the gaps amongst coworkers, employees and management, and the greater space industry. The JPL Inclusion Advisory Council “collaborates across the Laboratory with employees, managers, projects, programs, and the Executive Council (EC) to ensure that every voice is valued; employees have a sense of belonging and connection with one another and to JPL.” Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) strive to be inclusively representative, today including such groups as the Advisory Council for Women (ACW), Amigos Unidos, Asian American Council, Black Excellence Strategic Team (B.E.S.T.), Native Engagement in Building a Unified Leadership Alliance (N.E.B.U.L.A.), Spectrum (L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+), and Veterans groups.

In addition, at the 37th Space Symposium, then Interim Director Larry James signed the “Space Workforce 2030” pledge, the first-ever space industry commitment of its kind to “significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups,” in an effort to expand that which JPL constantly strives to recognize throughout the space industry.

P-26433B

According to the November 1983 issue of Universe, “The sights, the sounds and the spectacle of JPL’s many ethnic, cultural and religious heritages fused into a colorful panorama around the warm and sunny Mall as the 1983 American Heritage Week was celebrated. Costumed dancers and musicians presented the cultures of many lands, as well as the regional folkways of America. Highlight of the week-long noon-time celebrations was the serving of foods unique to regions…The week’s festivities were organized under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs (ACMA).”

Today, inclusivity remains top of mind, and it's important to continue to celebrate how differences actively connect us all across the Lab - closing the gaps amongst coworkers, employees and management, and the greater space industry. The JPL Inclusion Advisory Council “collaborates across the Laboratory with employees, managers, projects, programs, and the Executive Council (EC) to ensure that every voice is valued; employees have a sense of belonging and connection with one another and to JPL.” Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) strive to be inclusively representative, today including such groups as the Advisory Council for Women (ACW), Amigos Unidos, Asian American Council, Black Excellence Strategic Team (B.E.S.T.), Native Engagement in Building a Unified Leadership Alliance (N.E.B.U.L.A.), Spectrum (L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+), and Veterans groups.

In addition, at the 37th Space Symposium, then Interim Director Larry James signed the “Space Workforce 2030” pledge, the first-ever space industry commitment of its kind to “significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups,” in an effort to expand that which JPL constantly strives to recognize throughout the space industry.

P-26434A

According to the November 1983 issue of Universe, “The sights, the sounds and the spectacle of JPL’s many ethnic, cultural and religious heritages fused into a colorful panorama around the warm and sunny Mall as the 1983 American Heritage Week was celebrated. Costumed dancers and musicians presented the cultures of many lands, as well as the regional folkways of America. Highlight of the week-long noon-time celebrations was the serving of foods unique to regions…The week’s festivities were organized under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs (ACMA).”

Today, inclusivity remains top of mind, and it's important to continue to celebrate how differences actively connect us all across the Lab - closing the gaps amongst coworkers, employees and management, and the greater space industry. The JPL Inclusion Advisory Council “collaborates across the Laboratory with employees, managers, projects, programs, and the Executive Council (EC) to ensure that every voice is valued; employees have a sense of belonging and connection with one another and to JPL.” Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) strive to be inclusively representative, today including such groups as the Advisory Council for Women (ACW), Amigos Unidos, Asian American Council, Black Excellence Strategic Team (B.E.S.T.), Native Engagement in Building a Unified Leadership Alliance (N.E.B.U.L.A.), Spectrum (L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+), and Veterans groups.

In addition, at the 37th Space Symposium, then Interim Director Larry James signed the “Space Workforce 2030” pledge, the first-ever space industry commitment of its kind to “significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups,” in an effort to expand that which JPL constantly strives to recognize throughout the space industry.

JPL Human Resources

According to the November 1983 issue of Universe, “The sights, the sounds and the spectacle of JPL’s many ethnic, cultural and religious heritages fused into a colorful panorama around the warm and sunny Mall as the 1983 American Heritage Week was celebrated. Costumed dancers and musicians presented the cultures of many lands, as well as the regional folkways of America. Highlight of the week-long noon-time celebrations was the serving of foods unique to regions…The week’s festivities were organized under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Minority Affairs (ACMA).”

Today, inclusivity remains top of mind, and it's important to continue to celebrate how differences actively connect us all across the Lab - closing the gaps amongst coworkers, employees and management, and the greater space industry.The JPL Inclusion Advisory Council “collaborates across the Laboratory with employees, managers, projects, programs, and the Executive Council (EC) to ensure that every voice is valued; employees have a sense of belonging and connection with one another and to JPL.” Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) strive to be inclusively representative, today including such groups as the Advisory Council for Women (ACW), Amigos Unidos, Asian American Council, Black Excellence Strategic Team (B.E.S.T.), Native Engagement in Building a Unified Leadership Alliance (N.E.B.U.L.A.), Spectrum (L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+), and Veterans groups.

In addition, at the 37th Space Symposium, then Interim Director Larry James signed the “Space Workforce 2030” pledge, the first-ever space industry commitment of its kind to “significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups,” in an effort to expand that which JPL constantly strives to recognize throughout the space industry.

February 2023

P-62, Photo taken by Stephanie Velazquez, 2023-01-17

Building 111 has been standing on Lab for over 70 years! When this photo was taken in June 1952, you could find a plethora of resources in Building 111, including: the mail room; the laboratory personnel office; conference rooms, where meetings, basic chemistry classes, and sessions for the JPL Motorsport Club were held; the Employee Recreation Club (ERC); Lab-Oratory’s editor and office; and much more. It even housed Dr. Pickering’s office during his tenure as Director of the Lab. Facilities maintained the original wood paneling that lined the back wall of his office - which was until recently part of the Records Management and Archives group’s (319G) offices – where a portrait of Dr. Pickering at his desk and an accompanying label hung (which now resides in the Archives office, 111-112, if you’d like to see it!).

This same year, Building 111 underwent construction that included extension and enlargement, adding an additional 3200 square feet to the space, as well as a one-story addition of 2800 square feet. These alterations to the building were meant to accommodate the growing Administration, Reports, and Design and Development sections that occupied this space.

Today, Building 111 houses the ManTech Help Desk, the JPL Library, offices for ITSD, the JPL Photo Lab, Property Accountability, and many more - even the JPL Records Management and Archives group – which you can see in this photo taken in January 2023. CL#23-0373

November 2022

333-1352A

Sixty years ago, the 1962 autumn issue of Vogue Australia featured a fashion spread that included an unlikely location backdrop – the Parkes Observatory radio telescope antennae in New South Wales, Australia. Completed in 1961, the Parkes Radio Telescope is a 64m movable dish telescope which served as design inspiration for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) dishes that are located in Goldstone, California, Madrid, Spain, and Canberra, Australia.  

The descriptions in the magazine spread connect the colors and textures of the fashionable 60s suits, coats, and accessories, to the architecture of the towers and the ideas evoked by the sky and space beyond, using language like “fashion on a new wavelength,” “out-of-this-world looks,” and “a down-to-earth wool suit” to round out the article about the latest fall fashion in 1962.

This isn’t the only time fashion has collided with space science – we found a 2017 photoshoot by Harper’s Bazaar magazine, where model Gigi Hadid posed with spacecraft models at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is also not uncommon to see NASA-related content be featured in fashion, art, and culture publications about topics that are not only about a specific model or fashion spread.

A 2019 GQ article highlights the growing trend of NASA-emblazoned clothing through the last decade, which makes it an increasingly ubiquitous logo.

A Vogue article from 2017 centers the stories of several women working at Kennedy Space Center. This is a departure from the 60s spread, focusing on the women in their work environment, rather than using the space center as simply a backdrop.

This article from Cultured Magazine explores a collaboration between a visual effects studio and NASA to bring views from the International Space Station to viewers on Earth via VR cameras.

It is encouraging to see that the fascination with space exploration and the people involved in its accomplishments has continued through the decades and is always expanding through various mediums. Do you have a favorite intersection of science and art? We’d love to hear from you! CL#22-4613

333-1351A

Sixty years ago, the 1962 autumn issue of Vogue Australia featured a fashion spread that included an unlikely location backdrop – the Parkes Observatory radio telescope antennae in New South Wales, Australia. Completed in 1961, the Parkes Radio Telescope is a 64m movable dish telescope which served as design inspiration for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) dishes that are located in Goldstone, California, Madrid, Spain, and Canberra, Australia.  

The descriptions in the magazine spread connect the colors and textures of the fashionable 60s suits, coats, and accessories, to the architecture of the towers and the ideas evoked by the sky and space beyond, using language like “fashion on a new wavelength,” “out-of-this-world looks,” and “a down-to-earth wool suit” to round out the article about the latest fall fashion in 1962.

This isn’t the only time fashion has collided with space science – we found a 2017 photoshoot by Harper’s Bazaar magazine, where model Gigi Hadid posed with spacecraft models at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is also not uncommon to see NASA-related content be featured in fashion, art, and culture publications about topics that are not only about a specific model or fashion spread.

A 2019 GQ article highlights the growing trend of NASA-emblazoned clothing through the last decade, which makes it an increasingly ubiquitous logo.

A Vogue article from 2017 centers the stories of several women working at Kennedy Space Center. This is a departure from the 60s spread, focusing on the women in their work environment, rather than using the space center as simply a backdrop.

This article from Cultured Magazine explores a collaboration between a visual effects studio and NASA to bring views from the International Space Station to viewers on Earth via VR cameras.

It is encouraging to see that the fascination with space exploration and the people involved in its accomplishments has continued through the decades and is always expanding through various mediums. Do you have a favorite intersection of science and art? We’d love to hear from you! CL#22-4613

333-1352B

Sixty years ago, the 1962 autumn issue of Vogue Australia featured a fashion spread that included an unlikely location backdrop – the Parkes Observatory radio telescope antennae in New South Wales, Australia. Completed in 1961, the Parkes Radio Telescope is a 64m movable dish telescope which served as design inspiration for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) dishes that are located in Goldstone, California, Madrid, Spain, and Canberra, Australia.  

The descriptions in the magazine spread connect the colors and textures of the fashionable 60s suits, coats, and accessories, to the architecture of the towers and the ideas evoked by the sky and space beyond, using language like “fashion on a new wavelength,” “out-of-this-world looks,” and “a down-to-earth wool suit” to round out the article about the latest fall fashion in 1962.

This isn’t the only time fashion has collided with space science – we found a 2017 photoshoot by Harper’s Bazaar magazine, where model Gigi Hadid posed with spacecraft models at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is also not uncommon to see NASA-related content be featured in fashion, art, and culture publications about topics that are not only about a specific model or fashion spread.

A 2019 GQ article highlights the growing trend of NASA-emblazoned clothing through the last decade, which makes it an increasingly ubiquitous logo.

A Vogue article from 2017 centers the stories of several women working at Kennedy Space Center. This is a departure from the 60s spread, focusing on the women in their work environment, rather than using the space center as simply a backdrop.

This article from Cultured Magazine explores a collaboration between a visual effects studio and NASA to bring views from the International Space Station to viewers on Earth via VR cameras.

It is encouraging to see that the fascination with space exploration and the people involved in its accomplishments has continued through the decades and is always expanding through various mediums. Do you have a favorite intersection of science and art? We’d love to hear from you! CL#22-4613

333-1356C

Sixty years ago, the 1962 autumn issue of Vogue Australia featured a fashion spread that included an unlikely location backdrop – the Parkes Observatory radio telescope antennae in New South Wales, Australia. Completed in 1961, the Parkes Radio Telescope is a 64m movable dish telescope which served as design inspiration for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) dishes that are located in Goldstone, California, Madrid, Spain, and Canberra, Australia.  

The descriptions in the magazine spread connect the colors and textures of the fashionable 60s suits, coats, and accessories, to the architecture of the towers and the ideas evoked by the sky and space beyond, using language like “fashion on a new wavelength,” “out-of-this-world looks,” and “a down-to-earth wool suit” to round out the article about the latest fall fashion in 1962.

This isn’t the only time fashion has collided with space science – we found a 2017 photoshoot by Harper’s Bazaar magazine, where model Gigi Hadid posed with spacecraft models at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It is also not uncommon to see NASA-related content be featured in fashion, art, and culture publications about topics that are not only about a specific model or fashion spread.

A 2019 GQ article highlights the growing trend of NASA-emblazoned clothing through the last decade, which makes it an increasingly ubiquitous logo.

A Vogue article from 2017 centers the stories of several women working at Kennedy Space Center. This is a departure from the 60s spread, focusing on the women in their work environment, rather than using the space center as simply a backdrop.

This article from Cultured Magazine explores a collaboration between a visual effects studio and NASA to bring views from the International Space Station to viewers on Earth via VR cameras.

It is encouraging to see that the fascination with space exploration and the people involved in its accomplishments has continued through the decades and is always expanding through various mediums. Do you have a favorite intersection of science and art? We’d love to hear from you! CL#22-4613

September 2022 1

P-335B

Dr. William H. Pickering began his tenure as Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on September 1, 1954! Following the surprise resignation of Director Dr. Louis G. Dunn, Caltech President, Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, named Dr. Pickering, current Division Chief of Guided Missile Electronics, as Dunn’s successor (even though he was on a leave of absence as a professor of electrical engineering at the time of his naming).

Dr. Pickering came to Caltech in 1936 and joined JPL staff just eight years later as Section Chief. In July 1951, he was appointed Chief of Division 3, Guided Missile Electronics. Upon the commencement of his leadership, Dr. Pickering wrote a greeting to JPL employees, which was published in the September 1954 issue of Lab-Oratory:

“In taking over the leadership of the Laboratory, I first want to acknowledge my very sincere appreciation for the personal abilities of Dr. Louis G. Dunn [Dr. Pickering’s predecessor], and for the magnificent job which he has done in building up the Laboratory over the past eight years…I am deeply conscious of the extent to which Dr. Dunn’s personal leadership has contributed to this growth, and of the task which I will have in maintaining the high standard he has established.

Within the past few years the Laboratory has attained a maturity of organization and of purpose which promises a brilliant future. I do not foresee any reason to initiate changes to the present organization or to the present program. I can assure all of you that the change of administration will not affect your job security.

The Laboratory is undertaking problems in research and development which can only be solved by a real team activity. We are such a team, and we will continue to advance together as long as we all work together. I am counting on the cooperation of each of you to keep the Laboratory the best in the country.” CL#22-4282

June 2022

P-131B

The JPL Photo Lab has been an integral part of the Lab throughout its tenure, creating a photographic record of JPL’s storied history. The JPL Photolab dates back to 1941, when it was first established by GALCIT Project No. 1, as JPL was then known. George Emmerson, the first photographer, recorded data during testing of propellants, rockets, and jet-assisted take-off units, and documented other JPL activities and facilities.  Over the years, the Photolab expanded the operation to include both still and moving images, updating their equipment to provide a wider range of services and products.  By the 1970s, millions of images were produced each year for imaging teams, mission Principle Investigators, the press, and Regional Planetary Image Facilities around the world.

Beginning in 1995, a major transformation took place that changed the JPL Photolab from analog (chemically-based) service to a full-service digital photographic imaging facility. Systems used in the capture, reproduction, and distribution of images at JPL were replaced, and the new digital systems have improved response time, reduced facilities requirements for space, eliminated large distribution requirements of hard copy, and eliminated chemical processing. This photo, taken 1952-10-29, depicts an early Photolab staffer with an 8x10 studio camera; many images taken with this camera now belong in the Archives.

Check out the Photolab to see what they’re up to now, or get in touch at photolab@jpl.nasa.gov! CL#-21-5953

January 2022

P-790B

JPL’s long history of participating in local and public health campaigns has included raising money with United Way, hosting regular blood drives, and bringing visiting chest X-rays onsite. And in 1957, JPL continued to contribute to public health causes by providing staffers with voluntary Polio vaccinations. In 1954, Fred Vogel (Transportation Section), became ill with spinal polio, and was confined to an iron lung at Los Angeles County General Hospital.

Because of the prevalence of polio during this time, and how close to home it became, the May 1957 issue of Lab-Oratory reports that “In response to employee requests, JPL [provided] the opportunity for personnel to obtain Salk polio vaccine at $2 a shot. Over 600 [employees] have signed up with Marie Jarvis, Nurse. 370 injections have been made so far. Further shots are awaiting arrival of more vaccine.” This photo, taken 1957-04-04, shows one of those JPLers receiving a polio shot. CL#21-5366

Lab-Oratory article (May 1957): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-770038/LabO_1955.pdf (page 58)

October 2021

International Coffee Day
P-706

1 October is International Coffee Day! These images, taken 12 September 1956 and 8 October 1957 respectively, show just how long coffee has been an important part of any JPLer’s morning. Representing JPL’s first ever coffee machine, and a coffee sling at what appears to be a JPL coffee cart, these photos feel as if they were taken in 2021.

Despite that we’re now making our own coffee every morning, we all can’t wait to get back to the JPL’s out of this world coffee cart! Drink a latte, cappuccino, flat white, or macchiato with fellow caffeinated JPLers over webex to celebrate this International Coffee Day! CL#21-0721

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

International Coffee Day
P-884

1 October is International Coffee Day! These images, taken 12 September 1956 and 8 October 1957 respectively, show just how long coffee has been an important part of any JPLer’s morning. Representing JPL’s first ever coffee machine, and a coffee sling at what appears to be a JPL coffee cart, these photos feel as if they were taken in 2021.

Despite that we’re now making our own coffee every morning, we all can’t wait to get back to the JPL’s out of this world coffee cart! Drink a latte, cappuccino, flat white, or macchiato with fellow caffeinated JPLers over webex to celebrate this International Coffee Day! CL#21-0721

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

July 2021

P-337B, 1954

A long-held summer and fall tradition is the JPL Picnic. Picnics were planned by a JPL Picnic Committee and occurred every year for JPL staffers and their families. These images were taken of picnics from 1954 and 1955, showcasing some of the annual activities. Festivities included volleyball, pony rides for the kids, carnival games, demonstrations by various JPL sports clubs, speeches, door prizes, and so much more!

A 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory asks the all-important question: “Where can you get a well-cooked dinner consisting of all the barbecued beef and beans, fresh green salad, hot rolls and butter, coffee or milk, and pie – that you can eat – for only $1.40 per adult of 80 cents per child?” The JPL Picnic is always the answer! CL#21-2706

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

P-339A, 1954

A long-held summer and fall tradition is the JPL Picnic. Picnics were planned by a JPL Picnic Committee and occurred every year for JPL staffers and their families. These images were taken of picnics from 1954 and 1955, showcasing some of the annual activities. Festivities included volleyball, pony rides for the kids, carnival games, demonstrations by various JPL sports clubs, speeches, door prizes, and so much more!

A 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory asks the all-important question: “Where can you get a well-cooked dinner consisting of all the barbecued beef and beans, fresh green salad, hot rolls and butter, coffee or milk, and pie – that you can eat – for only $1.40 per adult of 80 cents per child?” The JPL Picnic is always the answer! CL#21-2706

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

P-340B, 1954

A long-held summer and fall tradition is the JPL Picnic. Picnics were planned by a JPL Picnic Committee and occurred every year for JPL staffers and their families. These images were taken of picnics from 1954 and 1955, showcasing some of the annual activities. Festivities included volleyball, pony rides for the kids, carnival games, demonstrations by various JPL sports clubs, speeches, door prizes, and so much more!

A 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory asks the all-important question: “Where can you get a well-cooked dinner consisting of all the barbecued beef and beans, fresh green salad, hot rolls and butter, coffee or milk, and pie – that you can eat – for only $1.40 per adult of 80 cents per child?” The JPL Picnic is always the answer! CL#21-2706

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

P-517B, 1955

A long-held summer and fall tradition is the JPL Picnic. Picnics were planned by a JPL Picnic Committee and occurred every year for JPL staffers and their families. These images were taken of picnics from 1954 and 1955, showcasing some of the annual activities. Festivities included volleyball, pony rides for the kids, carnival games, demonstrations by various JPL sports clubs, speeches, door prizes, and so much more!

A 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory asks the all-important question: “Where can you get a well-cooked dinner consisting of all the barbecued beef and beans, fresh green salad, hot rolls and butter, coffee or milk, and pie – that you can eat – for only $1.40 per adult of 80 cents per child?” The JPL Picnic is always the answer! CL#21-2706

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

P-530B, 1955

A long-held summer and fall tradition is the JPL Picnic. Picnics were planned by a JPL Picnic Committee and occurred every year for JPL staffers and their families. These images were taken of picnics from 1954 and 1955, showcasing some of the annual activities. Festivities included volleyball, pony rides for the kids, carnival games, demonstrations by various JPL sports clubs, speeches, door prizes, and so much more!

A 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory asks the all-important question: “Where can you get a well-cooked dinner consisting of all the barbecued beef and beans, fresh green salad, hot rolls and butter, coffee or milk, and pie – that you can eat – for only $1.40 per adult of 80 cents per child?” The JPL Picnic is always the answer! CL#21-2706

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

P-531B, 1955

A long-held summer and fall tradition is the JPL Picnic. Picnics were planned by a JPL Picnic Committee and occurred every year for JPL staffers and their families. These images were taken of picnics from 1954 and 1955, showcasing some of the annual activities. Festivities included volleyball, pony rides for the kids, carnival games, demonstrations by various JPL sports clubs, speeches, door prizes, and so much more!

A 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory asks the all-important question: “Where can you get a well-cooked dinner consisting of all the barbecued beef and beans, fresh green salad, hot rolls and butter, coffee or milk, and pie – that you can eat – for only $1.40 per adult of 80 cents per child?” The JPL Picnic is always the answer! CL#21-2706

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

April 2021

P-124B

16 April is National Librarian Day! The library has always been an important part of JPL’s research culture, and has been a significant part of the Lab since at least the 1950s. These photos, taken 27 October 1952, show one of the early iterations of the JPL Library. Because of Dr. Pickering’s insistence on JPL remaining research-driven and university-like, the library was instituted as a hub of learning. According to the January 1953 edition of Lab-Oratory, “The Library is staffed by a Librarian [Betty Mears] and 5 assistants. It is also interesting to note that library circulation has increased in proportion to the growth of JPL. The Library now contains an estimated total of 33,000 volumes, of which about 1400 textbooks. A total of 154 periodicals are subscribed to.”

Now taking form of The HUB in Building 111, the JPL Library is an integral function of the Lab. Though the physical card catalogue is gone, and the stacks look different, the library’s walls still hold all of the informational treasures as it has throughout its tenure, and remains an integral part of JPL culture. As of 2021, the Library is staffed by six information science specialists and three information science technicians. More than 90% of the library materials are digital. The Library now provide access to more than 12,000 electronic journals and 50,000 electronic books. In 2020, more than 330,000 articles and 60,000 book chapters were downloaded.

Be sure to thank your JPL Librarians! CL#21-0732

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in these photos, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

Lab-Oratory article (January 1953): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-770036/LabO_1953.pdf (page 7)

January 2021

JPL at the Rose Parade
January 1976

Courtesy of the Tournament of Roses Foundation, this photo depicts the JPL entry to the Rose Parade in January 1976. The float, a tribute titled "The Search for Life," depicted the Viking Orbiter soaring over a full-scale model of the Viking Lander. This portion of the design had a special waiver from the Tournament of Roses to be used on the float, as it was not made of flowers. “The Search for Life” was sponsored by The Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, and designed in cooperation with NASA. This subject was chosen for the float because the landing of Viking 1 was planned for July 4th of that year, the United States Bicentennial. The Lander would ultimately land on Mars on July 20th, the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. 

See Lab-Oratory excerpts with your JPL username and password: January 1976 (1) (page 11): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-770033/LabO_1976.pdf

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. CL#20-6316

October 2020

Celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Ulysses launch

P-29790

6 October 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Ulysses. Formerly known as the International Solar Polar Mission (ISPM), Ulysses was the first mission to study the never-before-examined north and south poles of the Sun. Ulysses was originally scheduled for launch in May 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-61-F. Due to the unfortunate loss of Challenger, the launch of Ulysses was delayed until 6 October 1990 aboard Discovery on STS-41. These images depict an artist’s rendering of the spacecraft itself departing from Discovery, as well as the Project Ulysses Team, and a few of its members completing work on the craft. This team worked under the guidance of JPL’s first flight project manager, Willis G. Meeks, who sits here with a model of Ulysses.

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

Celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Ulysses launch

P-33934

6 October 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Ulysses. Formerly known as the International Solar Polar Mission (ISPM), Ulysses was the first mission to study the never-before-examined north and south poles of the Sun. Ulysses was originally scheduled for launch in May 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-61-F. Due to the unfortunate loss of Challenger, the launch of Ulysses was delayed until 6 October 1990 aboard Discovery on STS-41. These images depict an artist’s rendering of the spacecraft itself departing from Discovery, as well as the Project Ulysses Team, and a few of its members completing work on the craft. This team worked under the guidance of JPL’s first flight project manager, Willis G. Meeks, who sits here with a model of Ulysses.

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

Celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Ulysses launch

P-36417Ac

6 October 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Ulysses. Formerly known as the International Solar Polar Mission (ISPM), Ulysses was the first mission to study the never-before-examined north and south poles of the Sun. Ulysses was originally scheduled for launch in May 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-61-F. Due to the unfortunate loss of Challenger, the launch of Ulysses was delayed until 6 October 1990 aboard Discovery on STS-41. These images depict an artist’s rendering of the spacecraft itself departing from Discovery, as well as the Project Ulysses Team, and a few of its members completing work on the craft. This team worked under the guidance of JPL’s first flight project manager, Willis G. Meeks, who sits here with a model of Ulysses.

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

Celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Ulysses launch

P-36862A

6 October 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of Ulysses. Formerly known as the International Solar Polar Mission (ISPM), Ulysses was the first mission to study the never-before-examined north and south poles of the Sun. Ulysses was originally scheduled for launch in May 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-61-F. Due to the unfortunate loss of Challenger, the launch of Ulysses was delayed until 6 October 1990 aboard Discovery on STS-41. These images depict an artist’s rendering of the spacecraft itself departing from Discovery, as well as the Project Ulysses Team, and a few of its members completing work on the craft. This team worked under the guidance of JPL’s first flight project manager, Willis G. Meeks, who sits here with a model of Ulysses.

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

July 2020

July 2020:

JPL Director Dr. Lew Allan and Deputy Director Dr. Peter Lyman

Photograph number P-32891

In this 1988 photo, JPL Director Dr. Lew Allen (left) and his Deputy Director Dr. Peter Lyman met in JPL’s administration building, where the executive offices are collectively known as “the 9th floor.”  See more...  

July 2020:

Deputy Director Peter Lyman, Portrait

Photograph number P-35400

Dr. Peter T. Lyman in January 1990, several years after he became Deputy Director of JPL. See more...

July 2020:

Deputy Director Peter Lyman in his office

Photograph number P-34960

Deputy Director Dr. Peter T. Lyman in his 9th floor office in JPL’s administration building, shortly after new furniture was delivered in August 1989. See more...

September 2023

P-35320, 1989-12-14

5 September is the International Day of Charity! JPL and Caltech have long been committed to partnering with United Way, playing just a small part in the much larger Los Angeles area effort to support a broad spectrum of United Way-supported social service and health care agencies. This image, taken 1989-12-14, shows “Dr. Allen[, who] helped officiate as JPL’s 1989 United Way campaign coordinators celebrated an ‘over-the-top’ victory for charity in late December. With a goal of $550,000 for the Lab’s annual fund-raising drive, final results tallied at $555,404 – the second consecutive year in which United Way has topped its goal in charitable giving.”

Additionally, JPL’s annual cooperation with United Way has warranted the production of many JPL pins over the years, including this one, which is part of the Archives’ growing pin collection.

Click here to contribute a charitable donation that will “help ensure individuals, students, veterans, and families in need across Los Angeles County get access to the tools, support, and services they need to survive and thrive.” CL#23-3567

Photo taken by Madison Teodo, 2023-07-10

5 September is the International Day of Charity! JPL and Caltech have long been committed to partnering with United Way, playing just a small part in the much larger Los Angeles area effort to support a broad spectrum of United Way-supported social service and health care agencies. This image, taken 1989-12-14, shows “Dr. Allen[, who] helped officiate as JPL’s 1989 United Way campaign coordinators celebrated an ‘over-the-top’ victory for charity in late December. With a goal of $550,000 for the Lab’s annual fund-raising drive, final results tallied at $555,404 – the second consecutive year in which United Way has topped its goal in charitable giving.”

Additionally, JPL’s annual cooperation with United Way has warranted the production of many JPL pins over the years, including this one, which is part of the Archives’ growing pin collection.

Click here to contribute a charitable donation that will “help ensure individuals, students, veterans, and families in need across Los Angeles County get access to the tools, support, and services they need to survive and thrive.” CL#23-3567

July 2023

D2003_0707_S1

On Launch Complex 17-B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Delta II Heavy launch vehicle carrying the rover "Opportunity,” or “Oppy,” for the second Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission launched 7 July 2003 at 11:18:15PM EDT. Opportunity reached Mars on 25 January 2004. Together the two identical MER rovers, Spirit (launched about a month prior, on 10 June) and Opportunity, were tasked to determine the history of climate and water at two sites on Mars where conditions may once have been favorable to life. They navigated themselves around obstacles as they drove across the Martian surface, traveling up to about 130 feet each Martian day. Each rover carried five scientific instruments, including a panoramic camera and microscope, plus a rock abrasion tool that ground away the outer surfaces of rocks to expose their interiors for examination.

Each rover’s prime mission was planned to last three months on Mars, but Oppy far outlasted this plan, and explored the Martian terrain for almost fifteen years. Oppy stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, Oppy and JPL were cut off from each other, and engineers’ last attempt to revive the rover took place on 13 February 2019, and received her final communication 10 June 2019, exactly sixteen years after her twin, Spirit, launched. CL#22-6160

D2004_0131_B43: JPL engineers in mission control cheering on Oppy’s egress from a region on Mars

On Launch Complex 17-B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Delta II Heavy launch vehicle carrying the rover "Opportunity,” or “Oppy,” for the second Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission launched 7 July 2003 at 11:18:15PM EDT. Opportunity reached Mars on 25 January 2004. Together the two identical MER rovers, Spirit (launched about a month prior, on 10 June) and Opportunity, were tasked to determine the history of climate and water at two sites on Mars where conditions may once have been favorable to life. They navigated themselves around obstacles as they drove across the Martian surface, traveling up to about 130 feet each Martian day. Each rover carried five scientific instruments, including a panoramic camera and microscope, plus a rock abrasion tool that ground away the outer surfaces of rocks to expose their interiors for examination.

Each rover’s prime mission was planned to last three months on Mars, but Oppy far outlasted this plan, and explored the Martian terrain for almost fifteen years. Oppy stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, Oppy and JPL were cut off from each other, and engineers’ last attempt to revive the rover took place on 13 February 2019, and received her final communication 10 June 2019, exactly sixteen years after her twin, Spirit, launched. CL#22-6160

April 2023

P-11549B

Did you know that the JPL Archives is part of the Records Management team? Data created at JPL - whether project documents, presentations, reports, financial and facilities documents, photos, employee newspapers, or oral histories - always passes through the hands of your resident Records Management Specialists and Archivists! Information management is crucial to our ability as a Lab to create the future by building upon our past. This photo, taken 7 October 1970, shows a “File Improvement Workshop,” which was a program on efficient filing procedures. It was instructed by Gilbert Dorame, the special projects officer from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which is the authoritative body on archival and records practice in the United States.

Today, the Archives team shares in various records management duties, including Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, managing the Paper Records Inventory (PRI), and helping JPLers put and find materials in storage. They share with Records the management of digital information, including digitized photos, microfilm, and record documents through online tools and databases, like the Master List of Records Categories (MLRC) and Alfresco, and work to preserve analog materials through digitization efforts. Records and Archives are two crucial parts of the information lifecycle, and the Records Management and Archives group (319G) is your go-to for all things historical JPL. In the words of Chief Engineer, Rob Manning, “As we all know, JPL’s mission is to add to the world’s knowledge of Earth, the solar system, and the wider universe. Building the hard and soft machinery to do that means that we need to acquire and share our own knowledge so that we build on the capabilities of each generation of engineer and scientist. This doesn’t happen automatically – we each need to actively curate that knowledge, information, and data so that those that come along after can firmly stand on our shoulders. The talented and passionate JPL Records and Archives group (319G) are chartered with helping us each do that. I count on them to keep me and the rest of us alert to what we must remember and to be partners in helping us find what we need to do our jobs.”

If you have any questions about JPL’s Records Management and Archives team, feel free to reach out to records@jpl.nasa.gov or archives@jpl.nasa.gov!  CL#23-0659

January 2023

325-566Bc

6 January marks the 55th anniversary of the launch of Surveyor 7! The last lunar lander of the American unmanned Surveyor program, Surveyor 7 was sent to explore the surface of the Moon in preparation for the upcoming Apollo missions.

This mission was decidedly unique, because the prior six spacecraft of the series had performed the majority of investigative work, so Surveyor 7 was dedicated primarily to scientific investigations. This lander/rover included an imaging system – which returned over twenty-one thousand images of the Moon – a soil mechanics surface sampler, and an alpha-scattering surface analyzer. It was the only spacecraft in the Surveyor series to land in the lunar highland region, and had the most extensive set of instruments, with which it conducted a number of scientific experiments on lunar soil, one of which returned the crucial piece of information that the chemical composition of the highland crust has less iron than in samples from the lunar maria. Surveyor 7 was also the first probe to detect the faint glow on the lunar horizon after dark that is now thought to be light reflected from electrostatically-levitated Moon dust.

In this photo, taken February 1968, “Charles “Chick” Capen, Lunar and Planetary Sciences (Section 325), astronomer assigned to Table M[ountain], took this time exposure of the observatory emitting a laser beam aimed at the moon.” According to the March 1968 issue of Lab-Oratory, this was a beam of light generated by a Hughes argon laser at JPL’s Table Mountain Observatory, and was photographed by Surveyor VII’s TV camera, an image of which was returned to Earth on 20 January 1968.

Surveyor 7’s mission ended on 21 February 1968 when contact was lost following battery damage suffered during the first lunar night. CL#22-6246

October 2022

P-40658

15 October marks the 25th anniversary of the Cassini launch! A joint endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency, Cassini spacecraft was a keystone of exploration of the Saturnian system and the properties of gaseous planets in our solar system.

Aiming for Saturn and its moons, Cassini contributed to studies of Jupiter for six months in 2000 before reaching its destination in 2004, and starting a string of lunar flybys. This same year, it released the Huygens probe on Titan to conduct a study of its atmosphere and surface composition, revealing it to be one of the most Earth-like worlds we had yet encountered.

Cassini performed multiple extended missions, allowing us to observe a complete seasonal period for Saturn and its moons, as well as completing the first successful dive through the narrow gap between its rings and descending into the planet’s atmosphere.

Cassini began its final entry into Saturn’s atmosphere on 2017-09-15, dictating its end of mission. Cassini was unique in that it was the first mission to orbit Saturn, to land in the outer solar system, and to sample an extraterrestrial ocean, making it extremely special to JPL and our mission, and so its model was proudly displayed on the Mall, as photographed here on 1992-07-16. CL#21-5882

Lab-Oratory article (March 1955): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-770038/LabO_1955.pdf (page 19)

August 2022

P-2037A

11 August 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of JPL’s conversion to the dial telephone system! In 1952, the Lab had the largest and most modern telephone exchange in the entire Pasadena area, about 75% of the Lab’s incoming calls were direct-dialed. At this time, PBX operators were handling upwards of 300 calls per hour, with a small staff run by PBX supervisor, Sally Crane. According to the August 1952 issue of Lab-Oratory, the implementation of the dial telephone system is a direct result of the unprecedented growth of the Lab during the early 1950s.

This photo, taken 28 August 1962, represents the staffers known as the ‘JPL Telephone Girls.’ The original PBX staff included Julia Plagemann, Kay Kent, Phyllis Mittlestedt, and Hannah Ash, under the leadership of JPL trailblazer, Sally Crane. CL#21-5935

The content presented here should be viewed in the context of the time period. Our intent is to present the history of JPL in a factual manner that uses primary resources and historical context. We recognize that some information or images do not reflect the current values, policies, and mission of JPL.

April 2022

P-13198A

Not long after blastoff from Cape Kennedy on 16 April, Apollo 16 astronauts encountered what would be their first of many problems – shreds of paint peeling off the lunar lander. Fears of flawed systems, calling off the landing, inoperative radar, and a gimbal lock warning never stopped the astronauts guiding Apollo 16 to a safe lunar landing, making this the fifth American flag implanted on the Moon.

This photo, taken 1972-06-27, shows Dr. Pickering explaining JPL’s giant Mariner 9 photo-mosaic of Mars to Apollo 16 astronauts (left to right) John W. Young, Thomas K. Mattingly, and Charles M. Duke. This month, we celebrate 50 years of these astronauts’ brave and tumultuous flight.

According to the July/August 1972 edition of Lab-Oratory, “In addition to several JPL science facilities, the visiting astronauts and wives toured deep space navigation areas and the Space Flight Operations Facility [SFOF]. After lunch in the executive patio, the distinguished visitors met and talked with employees on JPL’s central mall.”

CL#22-0027

December 2021

P-48481Bc

Happy 25th Anniversary, Mars Pathfinder! This image, taken on 4 December 1996, shows a Delta II rocket lifting off carrying NASA/JPL's Mars Pathfinder probe at 1:58AM from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida. The Pathfinder was destined to land on Mars’ Ares Vallis on 4 July 1997 and dispatch a small rover, Sojourner, to search for signs of life on the Red Planet. 

Designed as a technology demonstration of a new way to deliver an instrumented lander and the first-ever robotic rover to the surface of Mars (known as the ‘airbag’ technique), Pathfinder returned an unprecedented amount of data and outlived its primary design life. It gave us significant data about Mars’ metallic core, water ice clouds, and abrupt temperature fluctuations. 

Mars Pathfinder’s final transmission was received on 27 September 1997, ultimately returning 2.3 billion bits of information, including more than 16,500 images from the lander and 550 images from the rover, as well as more than 15 chemical analyses of rocks and soil, and extensive data on winds and Martian 

weather. These findings allowed JPL scientists to ascertain that Mars was likely once warm and wet, with water existing in a liquid state and a thicker atmosphere. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

September 2021

325-39A

 20 September marks the 55th anniversary of the launch of JPL’s spacecraft, Surveyor II! This lander/rover was destined for the Moon, carrying with it an imaging system intended to bring back an array of lunar photos. This image, taken 6 December 1962, shows the A-21 mock-up of the Surveyor M12 Model 62. 

The craft lost control and crashed into the Moon just southeast of Copernicus crater at 8:18PM on 23 September 1966. Contact with Surveyor II was lost early that morning when there was a failure in the communications or power system during the firing of the 10,000 pound thrust retro engine. Up to the time of loss of contact, there was no evidence of further failure in the spacecraft beyond that of the vernier engine number three to fire upon command. This failure threw Surveyor II into an uncontrolled tumble, with efforts to re-stabilize it failing. The following year, ts successor, Surveyor III, ultimately made a soft landing on the Moon, making further inroads into the preparations for future human lunar missions. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

June 2021

P-958

One major piece of JPL that we’ve all been missing during this work from home period is our friendly JPL deer! Though they stop traffic in the parking lot and run across the streets on Lab, the appearance of the deer happily signifies to the Lab that it’s finally springtime. 

The deer have been inhabiting the Lab throughout its history, this photo being taken 9 January 1958. Conversely, 63 years later, we’re still enamored by the deer. This drawing was done 21 January 2021 by Data Visualization Developer, Vaishnavi Yathirajam (398I), another of our fellow JPLers missing this time of year on Lab. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

Drawing by Vaishnavi Yathirajam (398I) 

One major piece of JPL that we’ve all been missing during this work from home period is our friendly JPL deer! Though they stop traffic in the parking lot and run across the streets on Lab, the appearance of the deer happily signifies to the Lab that it’s finally springtime. 

The deer have been inhabiting the Lab throughout its history, this photo being taken 9 January 1958. Conversely, 63 years later, we’re still enamored by the deer. This drawing was done 21 January 2021 by Data Visualization Developer, Vaishnavi Yathirajam (398I), another of our fellow JPLers missing this time of year on Lab. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

March 2021

293-363

22 March marks the 75th anniversary of the first American rocket to escape Earth’s atmosphere, the JPL-Ordnance WAC! WAC (Without Altitude Control) Corporal, also known as WAC A, reached a 50 mile height after its launch from White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG). This photo, taken 29 October 1945, shows Frank Malina and WAC Corporal Project Coordinator P.J. Meeks standing with the rocket in the launcher at WSPG. WAC Corporal was initially developed as the ‘little sister’ of GALCIT’s Corporal military rocket as part of a series of rockets planned for the Army, including Private, Corporal, and Sergeant. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

December 2020

Holidays at JPL
GALCIT Ear 1(3):11 

The holiday season has always been a jolly time at JPL. Starting as early as 1944, we see comical advertisements for the annual GALCIT Christmas Party. This edition of JPL’s first employee periodical, The GALCIT Ear, called for nominations for ‘a bigger and better Santa Claus,’ preferably of those on Lab ‘who bear a marked physical resemblance to the real thing.’ To this day, JPL commemorates the holidays with mementos and spirited cards from the Director.
CL#20-5554

GALCIT EAR 1(3) (December 1944) [Can be viewed with JPL username and password]: https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-823692/Galcit_Ear-1no3.pdf (page 11)

The JPL Archives wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

September 2020

September 2020

Celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the Viking Orbiter 2 launch

Photograph number P-20122Ac

9 September 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the launch of Viking Orbiter 2. Launched only twenty days after its identical counterpart, Viking Orbiter 1, VO-2 played a crucial role in our current understanding of the Martian landscape. This photo was taken on 3 March 1978 during a team event, where they celebrated with a cake depicting the spacecraft and Mars. The celebration extended to the entire Lab – in keeping with the Lab’s tradition of commemorating landmark events with pins and other memorabilia, Viking 2 stamps were made available by the JPL Stamp Club.

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

September 2020

Celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Viking Orbiter 2 launch

9 September 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the launch of Viking Orbiter 2. Launched only twenty days after its identical counterpart, Viking Orbiter 1, VO-2 played a crucial role in our current understanding of the Martian landscape. This photo was taken on 3 March 1978 during a team event, where they celebrated with a cake depicting the spacecraft and Mars. The celebration extended to the entire Lab – in keeping with the Lab’s tradition of commemorating landmark events with pins and other memorabilia, Viking 2 stamps were made available by the JPL Stamp Club.

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

November 2023

P-520A

An example of JPL’s historical and ongoing approach to public health, these photos document an on-Lab X-Ray clinic that was hosted in conjunction with the Pasadena Tuberculosis Association. This mobile X-Ray unit was stationed “immediately east of the JPL First Aid Room” all day on 27 July 1955, when these photos were taken. JPLers were invited to  “use this opportunity to obtain a chest x-ray on Laboratory time,” and encouraged to perform annual chest x-rays as a preventative health measure.

This became an annual health checkpoint for JPL during the 1950s, and staff would line up to take advantage. In this photo (left to right) Sylvia Granath, Ed Quick, Marie Mandroian, Dee Campbell, Ed Hane, and Russell Waldo climb the “stairway to health” and wait their turns. According to the August 1955 issue of Lab-Oratory, “[l]ast year, 437 JPL [staff] took advantage of this Laboratory service, showing an increased interest this year in preventative personal health.” CL#22-6272

P-520B

An example of JPL’s historical and ongoing approach to public health, these photos document an on-Lab X-Ray clinic that was hosted in conjunction with the Pasadena Tuberculosis Association. This mobile X-Ray unit was stationed “immediately east of the JPL First Aid Room” all day on 27 July 1955, when these photos were taken. JPLers were invited to  “use this opportunity to obtain a chest x-ray on Laboratory time,” and encouraged to perform annual chest x-rays as a preventative health measure.

This became an annual health checkpoint for JPL during the 1950s, and staff would line up to take advantage. In this photo (left to right) Sylvia Granath, Ed Quick, Marie Mandroian, Dee Campbell, Ed Hane, and Russell Waldo climb the “stairway to health” and wait their turns. According to the August 1955 issue of Lab-Oratory, “[l]ast year, 437 JPL [staff] took advantage of this Laboratory service, showing an increased interest this year in preventative personal health.” CL#22-6272

June 2023

P-13728A, 1973-02-16

JPL has been hiring brilliant women for significant scientific and engineering roles ever since Barby Canright in 1939, the first female “human computer,” who was responsible for fundamental calculations related to rocket trajectory and determined thrust ratios that made planes airborne. JPL has continued this in spades, one of those creative and strategic minds being Helen Ling.

Born in China, Helen came to the United States for advanced studies; at the time, she was the only woman to major in Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame. Eventually joining her brother in working at JPL, Helen Ling became a supervisor for the computing group in the 1960s, a team who was responsible for performing trajectory calculations. Throughout her time at JPL, Ling developed software for the IRAS, Magellan, TOPEX/Poseidon, and Mars Observer missions, and retired in 1994.  

Helen was influential in the inclusion of women in STEM positions at JPL. Ling encouraged women within the computing group to attend night school in order to obtain degrees that would allow them more professional opportunities within JPL. A pioneer for women’s rights in the workplace, Helen Ling was so admired in the computing group that those who worked under her lovingly referred to themselves as “Helen’s girls.” Many of “Helen’s girls” went on to become computer scientists and engineers within JPL thanks to the mentorship and guidance of Helen Ling.

Be sure to check out more of JPL’s women in engineering in the Archives’ The Women of JPL digital exhibit! CL#22-6085

March 2023

P-23333

Phyllis Ward Riggle (left) was one of the original female engineers at JPL. A 1944 graduate of Pomona College, Claremont, she joined JPL in 1950 as a member of the Computing Staff, and as a mathematician with various JPL groups. 

From 1957-1959, as a member of the Research Analysis Section, Riggle participated in general flight path analysis and trajectory development for Sergeant, Explorer, and early Pioneer flights. Over the years, she held a variety of key engineering and technical posts in space science, project engineering, and mission concept studies and analysis. From 1974-1980, Riggle was technical manager in the Flight Projects office, and from 1980 to her retirement in 1981 (retirement party pictured), she was assistant manager for Science Implementation, FPPO.

Riggle passed away in August 2004, and is buried with her husband, Norman, near their beloved cabin at Jackpot Mine in the ghost town of Ballarat, California. CL#22-6247

December 2022

Leonard Marsh’s ‘Arctic Suit,' P-506

Former Section 16, the Environmental Design and Testing Group of Component Developments, was JPL’s go-to team for discovering vulnerabilities in electronic and mechanical equipment developed by the Lab. The team handled vibration testing, shock testing, and equipment assessments in high and low temperature and humidity. This photo, taken 6 June 1955, depicts one of those skilled testers and the individual responsible for maintaining the Environmental Test Laboratory (ETL), Leonard Marsh, “model[ing] protective clothing which must be worn in the low temperature and humidity chamber [in the ETL, Building 82].” For this particular test, the chamber was 40 degrees below zero, with noticeable frost on both the floor and ceiling. CL#21-5881

Lab-Oratory article (June 1955): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-770038/LabO_1955.pdf (page 49)

September 2022 2

P-31177 and fan mail from Lab-O, 1981

5 September 2021 marks the 45th anniversary of the Voyager 1 launch! Formerly known as Mariner Jupiter-Saturn 1977 or MJS77, Voyager is the most distant artificial object from Earth. Launched just 16 days after its twin spacecraft, Voyager 2, Voyager 1 began its exploration of the Jovian and Saturnian systems, discovering new moons, active volcanoes, and a wealth of data about the outer solar system.

Voyagers 1 and 2 were specifically designed to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that occurs only once very ~176 years, and remains the most well-traveled spacecraft in history. Throughout its tenure in the solar system, Voyager has made an impact all over the world. From its launch to its encounters, Voyager’s celebrity is unmatched in the sky; so much that it received countless fan mail following the Saturn encounter. [include photo of Lab-O here]

Both Voyagers are special in the respect that they carry copies of the Golden Record, a sound-based time capsule intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. Schedule a visit with the Archivists to check out the Archives’ copy of the Golden Record! CL#21-5904

Universe article (January 1981): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-755633/Universe1981.pdf  (page 7)

 

P-31177 and fan mail from Lab-O, 1981

5 September 2021 marks the 45th anniversary of the Voyager 1 launch! Formerly known as Mariner Jupiter-Saturn 1977 or MJS77, Voyager is the most distant artificial object from Earth. Launched just 16 days after its twin spacecraft, Voyager 2, Voyager 1 began its exploration of the Jovian and Saturnian systems, discovering new moons, active volcanoes, and a wealth of data about the outer solar system.

Voyagers 1 and 2 were specifically designed to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment that occurs only once very ~176 years, and remains the most well-traveled spacecraft in history. Throughout its tenure in the solar system, Voyager has made an impact all over the world. From its launch to its encounters, Voyager’s celebrity is unmatched in the sky; so much that it received countless fan mail following the Saturn encounter. [include photo of Lab-O here]

Both Voyagers are special in the respect that they carry copies of the Golden Record, a sound-based time capsule intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. Schedule a visit with the Archivists to check out the Archives’ copy of the Golden Record! CL#21-5904

Universe article (January 1981): https://bravo-lib.jpl.nasa.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-755633/Universe1981.pdf  (page 7)

July 2022

P-3883A; Photo by Jim McClure (1620)

The Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF) has been undergoing so many renovations over the past few years! This side-by-side, taken 1964-09-03 and 2021-09-21 show just how much SFOF has changed (or not) over time.

As of 1963, directly behind the Central Engineering Building (CEB), which became the new headquarters for the Lab, SFOF was under construction. The hub of JPL, SFOF has hosted such historic moments as the launch of Rangers and Mariners all the way to Mars2020, JPL staff orientations, and the rise of the lucky peanuts. As a facility that played such a critical role in the history of space exploration, SFOF was designated a national historic landmark in July 1994.

Today, SFOF is a regular stop on JPL general tours, open houses, and other JPL-hosted events. From its amazing viewing gallery, to the Lucky Peanuts, to the Center of the Universe, SFOF remains one of the main highlights of the JPL landscape. CL#21-5954

February 2022

P-80A

On 17 July 1952, the first class of The Corporal Guided Missile Training School held its graduation ceremony at White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG), Las Cruces, New Mexico. 52 students were conferred Certificates of Graduation by then-JPL Director, Dr. Louis G. Dunn and Army Ordnance Coordinating Officer, Lt. Col. T.H. Ebbert.

The Corporal Guided Missile Training School consisted of officers, enlisted men, and civilians whom the Army deemed ‘instructor material.’ Students, who all possessed previous electronic and mechanical engineering training to some degree, attended courses that trained them in the use of guided missiles, in both the utilization of personnel and of the technical phases. These graduates went on to teach courses in all levels of the guided missile program to various Army units. 

Courses were held at the JPL Training Laboratory, McCornack General Hospital, Pasadena, and JPL facilities were used as supplemental space. The JPL Military Training Lab moved to this location in March 1952, and included 19 instructors – 10 military and 9 civilians. Originally organized under Section 15 Chief, Robert B. Rypinski, following the relocation, the school operated under Division 3, and was overseen by Dr. William H. Pickering. CL#21-5950

November 2021

324-1521Bc, Views of Mars from Mariner 9 

13 November marks the 50th anniversary of Mariner 9 becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet in 1971 – Mars! One of a series of ten Mariner spacecrafts, this unmanned orbiter was tasked with studying the Martian surface and atmosphere. Beating the Soviet craft Mars 2 to the Red Planet, Mariner 9 ultimately mapped over 85% of the Martian surface, which was a mission inherited from its failed twin, Mariner 8. 

For nearly a year, Mariner 9 carried out its mission, collecting data on the composition of the Martian surface and atmosphere. Of the more than 7,000 images it transmitted, some of the most significant were the first detailed views of the solar system's largest volcano, a canyon system that dwarfs the Grand Canyon, and provided the first closeup pictures of Mars’ two small, irregular moons, Phobos and Deimos. 

Mariner 9’s mission officially ended on 27 October 1972, but remains in Areocentric orbit until at least 2022, when it is projected to fall out of orbit and into the Martian atmosphere. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

352-5755Bc, Mariner 9 preparing for thermal vacuum test 

13 November marks the 50th anniversary of Mariner 9 becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet in 1971 – Mars! One of a series of ten Mariner spacecrafts, this unmanned orbiter was tasked with studying the Martian surface and atmosphere. Beating the Soviet craft Mars 2 to the Red Planet, Mariner 9 ultimately mapped over 85% of the Martian surface, which was a mission inherited from its failed twin, Mariner 8. 

For nearly a year, Mariner 9 carried out its mission, collecting data on the composition of the Martian surface and atmosphere. Of the more than 7,000 images it transmitted, some of the most significant were the first detailed views of the solar system's largest volcano, a canyon system that dwarfs the Grand Canyon, and provided the first closeup pictures of Mars’ two small, irregular moons, Phobos and Deimos. 

Mariner 9’s mission officially ended on 27 October 1972, but remains in Areocentric orbit until at least 2022, when it is projected to fall out of orbit and into the Martian atmosphere. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

352-5765Ac, Full scale model of Mariner 9 

13 November marks the 50th anniversary of Mariner 9 becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet in 1971 – Mars! One of a series of ten Mariner spacecrafts, this unmanned orbiter was tasked with studying the Martian surface and atmosphere. Beating the Soviet craft Mars 2 to the Red Planet, Mariner 9 ultimately mapped over 85% of the Martian surface, which was a mission inherited from its failed twin, Mariner 8. 

For nearly a year, Mariner 9 carried out its mission, collecting data on the composition of the Martian surface and atmosphere. Of the more than 7,000 images it transmitted, some of the most significant were the first detailed views of the solar system's largest volcano, a canyon system that dwarfs the Grand Canyon, and provided the first closeup pictures of Mars’ two small, irregular moons, Phobos and Deimos. 

Mariner 9’s mission officially ended on 27 October 1972, but remains in Areocentric orbit until at least 2022, when it is projected to fall out of orbit and into the Martian atmosphere. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov

August 2021

353-180A

August 23rd marks the 60th anniversary of the failed launch of Ranger 1. Launched on August 23, 1961 at 6:04AM from Atlas Agena in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Ranger 1 was the first in a series of nine spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the Moon. Designed to make a highly elliptical Earth orbit, and carrying several science instruments for studying cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and energetic particles, this orbiter ushered in both a trying and rich season of discovery for JPL.

During launch, a rocket malfunction caused the spacecraft to get stranded in low-Earth orbit, and one week after its launch, Ranger 1 burned up upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere. This, and the failure of the next five Rangers, did, however, lead us to one of JPL’s most cherished pieces of culture: the Lucky Peanuts.

Mission Trajectory Engineer, Dick Wallace, passed out peanuts the morning of the launch of Ranger 7, in the hopes of calming people’s nerves. When this Ranger performed flawlessly, JPL’s favorite superstition took hold, and now peanuts grace mission control facilities during launches, landings, flybys, and other critical mission stages. CL#21-0723

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

 

M2020 Launch Activities in SFOF, Lucky Peanuts. Photo taken by Thom Wynne (1841)

23 August 1961, 6:04AM marks the 60th anniversary of the failed launch of Ranger 1. Launched from Atlas Agena in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Ranger 1 was the first in a series of nine spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the Moon. Designed to make a highly elliptical Earth orbit, and carrying several science instruments for studying cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and energetic particles, this orbiter ushered in both a trying and rich season of discovery for JPL.

During launch, a rocket malfunction caused the spacecraft to get stranded in low-Earth orbit, and one week after its launch, Ranger 1 burned up upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere. This, and the failure of the next five Rangers, did, however, lead us to one of JPL’s most cherished pieces of culture: the Lucky Peanuts.

Mission Trajectory Engineer, Dick Wallace, passed out peanuts the morning of the launch of Ranger 7, in the hopes of calming people’s nerves. When this Ranger performed flawlessly, JPL’s favorite superstition took hold, and now peanuts grace mission control facilities during launches, landings, flybys, and other critical mission stages. CL#21-3533

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

May 2021

P-788B 

140 years ago, on 11 May 1881, JPL founder, Dr. Theodore von Kármán, was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. Prolific mathematician, physicist, and aerospace engineer, von Kármán is responsible for multiple key advancements in aerodynamics, most notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization. 

In 1930, after pursuing multiple engineering and aeronautics degrees and positions throughout Europe, he accepted the directorship of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT). It was here that he, along with Frank Malina and Jack Parsons, founded Aerojet to manufacture JATO rocket motors. After World War II initiated an increase in militaristic interest in rocket research, von Karman was repeatedly consulted, and he and his partners at GALCIT went on to found the home of the great work that you all do today, JPL! 

At age 81, von Kármán became the first recipient of the National Medal of Science from the Kennedy Administration, recognizing him for his immense contributions to engineering and aerospace. The above image, taken 30 March 1957, represents one of von Kármán’s JPL portraits, taken in his office. 

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov. 

February 2021

P-787D

Were you hit by Cupid’s bow or just the JPL Archery Club!? In this photo, taken 27 March 1957, former President of the JPL Archery Club, Sr. Electronic Technician, Don Hoff “gets assistance from Marlene Foshay...Miss Guided Missile candidate, in the removal of a real misguided missile.” One of JPL’s various sports and activities clubs, the Archery Club participated in many group events, including hunting, fishing, archery-golf, and tournament shoots. In the 1950s, the club operated from the JPL Archery Range, located above the Wind Tunnel along the north fence of the Lab, and were known for their fun and wacky slogans, including “You can’t kill a lion with a golf ball!”

We’d love to hear from you! For more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

November 2020

Blood Drives at JPL

P-475D

JPL has been hosting bi-annual blood drives in conjunction with the Red Cross of America since at least 1951. This image, taken during the drive held 13 April 1955, depicts a JPL nurse drawing blood from a JPL donor. The blood donated during these drives was collected into the ‘JPL Blood Bank,’ from which blood was specifically allocated to JPL staffers and their family members in need. Always, but especially now, donating blood is vital for our public health, and as Lab Administrator V.C. Larsen, Jr. said, “’That pint of blood you donate might save a life, and that life might be your own!’” Click here to read this excerpt from the March 1955 Lab-Oratory newspaper. 

We’d love to hear from you! If you can identify anyone in this photo, or for more information about the history of JPL, please contact the JPL Archives at archives@jpl.nasa.gov.

August 2020

August 2020

Mask Training in 1957
Photograph number P-902B

In November 1957, Scott Aviation Corporation was invited to hold a training session next to the JPL fire station, demonstrating how to use their Scott Breath Air Pak. See more...


Original text from Lab-Oratory, December 1957, page 8

"AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION...you know the pitch. It's old but it never goes out of style. The best way to handle fumes, gas, air pollutants, etc., is not to have them in the first place. See more...