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May 2017

May 31st, 2017
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Photograph Number 318-243Bc
Deep Space Network/Space Flight Operations Exhibit

In October 1967 Mariner 5 had just reached Venus, JPL was looking forward to the 10th anniversary of Explorer 1 and the launches of Surveyor 6 and 7 to the Moon, and Mariner 6 and 7 were in development. When visitors were escorted into the lobby of the Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF), they saw the reception/security desk, a waiting area, and this new exhibit.  It explained the flow of data from a spacecraft to the Deep Space Network stations (or Deep Space Instrumentation Facilities) to the SFOF.  A series of photos showed various work stations in the SFOF, as well as the technology being used in the facility (in the main operations area and behind the scenes).  During 1967 and 1968, JPL hosted visits by NASA staff, members of Congress, foreign dignitaries, JPL contractors/partners, former employees, student groups, professional groups, celebrities, and the press.

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival sources: 318 and P photo albums and index.]

April 2017

April 30th, 2017
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Technician Classes
Photograph Number P-725A

As early as 1952, JPL supported professional development for its employees. In the 1950s and 60s, several different programs were created to provide professional and technical training: fees were paid for conferences, seminars, and outside courses; there were on-site (in-plant) training classes for engineers, supervisors, technical personnel, secretaries, and administrative staff; and tuition support was received for specialized training and degree programs. By 1963, more than 2,200 requests were approved each year.

In October 1956, Frank Ziol (an Associate Professor at Pasadena City College) spoke to a class of JPL technicians in the Building 121 cafeteria, next to the east gate. Technicians were the people who operated and maintained the various JPL wind tunnels and test facilities. Some of their in-plant classes included: Electronics for Non-electronic Personnel, Electronics for Electricians, Applied Physics, Effective Writing for Technicians, Descriptive Geometry, Vacuum Environment, Shop Practices, Machine Tools, and Graphic Arts Reproduction. The session above included information about how to use a slide rule, with an oversized visual aid. Some of these technicians went on to earn a degree and became engineers.

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival sources: Lab-Oratory, 1963, various issues; P photo albums and index.]

March 2017

March 31st, 2017
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Imager for Mars Pathfinder
Photograph Number JPL-26090

This photo of the IMP (Imager for Mars Pathfinder) was taken in August 1995. The experiment was developed by a team led by the University of Arizona, and was tested and calibrated at U of A and JPL.  Its extendable mast was stowed inside a round canister which was mounted on the Mars Pathfinder lander.

Pathfinder was launched on December 4, 1996 and landed on July 4, 1997. After the airbags deflated and the lander petals opened, the IMP was deployed. The canister opened and a fiberglass and wire mast lifted the camera to a height of about 1.5 meters (5 feet) above the Martian surface. Once it was verified that the surrounding area was safe, the Sojourner rover rolled down a ramp, onto the rocky surface of Mars.  256 x 256 pixel stereo image pairs from the IMP were used to study the geology, topography, and atmosphere of Mars, and to track the movements of the rover.  IMP returned more than 16,000 images before Pathfinder’s last data transmission on September 27, 1997.

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival and other sources: Minutes of the Fifth and Sixth IMP Science Team Meetings, 1995 and 1996; MPF Landing Press Kit; NSSDC web site; MPF web sites; and D-13383 drawings/correspondence.]

February 2017

February 28th, 2017
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Titan Saturn Mission Artwork, 1976
Photograph Number P-16926

In the 1970s and 80s, before advanced computer graphics, artist Ken Hodges was hired by JPL to create paintings that depicted many different missions – some in the planning stages and some only imagined.  Bruce Murray became JPL’s Director in 1976, and he advocated new missions (Purple Pigeons) that would have enough pizzazz to attract public and scientific support.  Hodges painted many of the Purple Pigeon images, including this scene of a Saturn orbiter with a lander going to the surface of Saturn’s largest moon Titan.  This artwork was done almost 30 years before Cassini’s Huygens Probe reached the surface of Titan.  Cassini was launched in 1997 and spent seven years traveling to Saturn. The probe was released in December 2004, and landed on Titan on January 14, 2005.

For more information about the history of JPL, contact the JPL Archives for assistance. [Archival and other sources: P-numbered photo albums and indexes, Cassini and Huygens web pages.]