JPL Director Charles Elachi

"Dare mighty things," Teddy Roosevelt urged the world a century ago. Those are words we live by today at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It's our job to explore our planet, our solar system and the universe. We've been doing this since 1958 when we built and helped launch into orbit the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, which, by the way, gave the world the very first space science discovery - the Van Allen radiation belts that surround Earth.

Since the time of Explorer 1, we've visited every planet in our solar system. We've flown by planets, circled them and even, in the case of Mars, put rovers on the surface. In January we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the landings of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Their warranty was for 90 days. But Spirit lasted six years! And even more impressive is Opportunity's achievement. It continues even today to roam about the Red Planet a decade later!

We recently held a celebration to honor Spirit and Opportunity. One person who shared her story was a young woman named Heather Justice. She was celebrating her 16th birthday when Opportunity landed, enveloped in air bags that bounced four stories into the air before rolling to a stop - definitely an example of daring a mighty thing. The landings made a big impression on Heather. And today she works at JPL. What does she do? She is one of the bright people who guide the rover as it rolls across the planet's surface in search of new discoveries.

But Heather is just one example of the talented young people at JPL. For instance, a group of them are responsible for an experiment called OPALS that will use a laser link to send videos to Earth from the International Space Station at unprecedented speeds. That will be launching soon, as will a slate of new Earth science missions that will increase our knowledge of our home planet.

In these pages you will find yet more stories of mighty things that we dare as we create missions exploring Earth, the solar system and the universe beyond. I hope you will find them as exciting as they are to all of the women and men at JPL who make them happen.

Dr. Charles Elachi
Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

  • Earth

    A look at our home planet

    Three Earth missions launching in 2014 will take a closer look at our home planet to study various processes and their link to climate change. The Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP, spacecraft will measure soil moisture from space. ISS-RapidScat will measure ocean winds from its perch aboard the International Space Station and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, will study carbon dioxide from space.

  • Dawn  mission to Vesta and Ceres

    Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres

    Having finished its exploration of Vesta in September 2012, capturing stunning views of the giant asteroid’s surface, Dawn is currently on its way to its second destination, Ceres. Dawn is the first spacecraft designed to orbit two different bodies after leaving Earth, a feat enabled by its ion thrusters, which are much more efficient than a typical spacecraft engine.

  • Juno mission to Jupiter

    Juno mission to Jupiter

    The Juno spacecraft, on target for a 2016 arrival at Jupiter, is designed to study the gas giant to better understand its origins and evolution, . Because of its mass, Jupiter still holds much of its original composition. By peering beneath Jupiter’s thick cloud cover and investigating its core, intense magnetic field, auroras and atmospheric composition, scientists hope to collect important clues about the formation of the solar system.

  • Voyager 1 in interstellar space

    Voyager 1 in interstellar space

    Launched in 1977 – shortly after its twin, Voyager 2 – the Voyager 1 spacecraft has spent more than 35 years journeying through the solar system. It surpassed Pioneer 10 in 1998 to become the most distant human-made object. And in August 2012 it became the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space, a newly defined region of the solar system described as “the space between stars.”

  • Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover

    Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover

    After a nail-biting landing on Mars in August 2012, Curiosity, the largest and most technologically advanced rover yet, got straight to the goal at hand: searching for signs that the Red Planet could have once supported life. Not even a year later, an analysis of a rock sample collected by the rover showed that ancient Mars could have, in fact, supported living microbes. The mission, which is designed to operate until the summer of 2014, is currently continuing its exploration of Mars.

  • NuSTAR x-ray telescope

    NuSTAR x-ray telescope

    Since the mission’s first light in June 2012, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has begun sussing out black holes, supernova explosions and active galaxies using a first-of-its-kind telescope capable of focusing the highest-energy X-ray light into detailed pictures. The observations could help astronomers crack unsolved mysteries about black holes.

  • Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif.

    Deep Space Network

    Serving as the world’s premier spacecraft communications and navigation system for more than 50 years, the Deep Space Network, or DSN, consists of giant antennas stationed at 120-degree intervals around the world – in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid and Canberra, Australia. The network’s 230-foot (70-meter) antennas are capable of interpreting even the tiniest spacecraft signals from billions of miles away. The network also works as a science instrument in its own right by using radio signals to study the composition of planets and track the trajectories of near-Earth objects like asteroids and comets.

  • Nanotechnology research to help diagnose and treat brain tumors

    Nanotechnology research to help diagnose and treat brain tumors

    Technologies originally developed for space missions often find their way to Earth to improve the quality of day-to-day life. As one example, JPL researchers have partnered with the City of Hope to explore the potential of carbon nanotubes -- used in various space applications to help produce electrons -- to diagnose and treat brain tumors. Initial studies on mice have shown that the tubes are an effective and non-toxic means of transporting cancer-fighting agents to the brain.

  • Aerial view of JPL's main facility near Los Angeles

    Aerial view of JPL's main facility near Los Angeles

    About twice the size of California's Disneyland, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a 177-building campus situated in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. In addition to a mission control center and 9,600 square-foot clean room, the lab is home to a simulated Mars landscape called the Mars Yard, as well as a 25-foot space simulator.