The Lab From the Air: The “then” image of JPL from above was taken in September 1950, when the lab’s main patron was the U.S. Army. The “now” image was taken in 2005. Among the signs of expansion: what used to be a green field on the western part of the lab (left side) is now occupied by JPL’s administration building (wide building with black windows), what is known as “The Mall” (an open-air gathering space) and an employee parking lot.
Welcome to JPL: This is what greeted visitors in December 1957. There is no sign at this location today -- instead there is just a stairway that runs up the side of the main administration building (Building 180). The official lab sign has moved farther south, just as the lab itself has expanded farther south out from the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The “now” picture is from July 2016.
Engineers: The “then” image shows engineers looking at data related to the Venus flyby of Mariner 2, the first flyby of another planet, on Dec. 14, 1962. The “now” image shows engineers monitoring the entry, descent and landing of the Mars rover Curiosity on Aug. 5, 2012.
A Snowy Entrance: A photograph from 1949 shows the lab’s main entrance gate and, to the left, JPL’s administration building at the time (Building 67) after a snowstorm. Building 67 is the Materials Research Building today. The Space Flight Operations Facility (Building 230), which houses JPL’s Mission Control, now stands over the parking area on the right. The main entrance gate moved farther south as the lab expanded. It can be seen in an image from October 2016.
The Gulch for Rocket Testing: At the northeast end of JPL, near the Arroyo Seco, there was a row of rocket test pits and storage buildings that housed explosives. The “then” picture was taken in August 1944. Today, this is a small parking lot behind the Fabrication Shop (Building 103), as seen in this picture from October 2014.
Mission Control: When spacecraft in deep space “phone home,” they do it through NASA’s Deep Space Network. JPL manages the Deep Space Network for NASA and this room in the lab’s Space Flight Operations Facility (Building 230) is the nerve center. Engineers in this room monitor the flow of data. The “then” image was taken in May 1964. The “now” image was taken in October 2016.
JPL Administration Building: The central hub of JPL’s administration, Building 180, is pictured in January 1965 and October 2014. There was a parking lot where "The Mall," a landscaped open-air gathering place, is now. A small security control post can be seen at the left of the 1965 image. And Building 167, one of the lab’s cafeterias, is on the right of both images.
Science Teams: In December 1972, the science steering group for a mission then-known as Mariner Jupiter Saturn 1977 -- later renamed Voyager -- met at JPL for the first time on the steps in front of the administration building (180). An image from August 2016 shows the first face-to-face science team meeting of NASA’s mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, also on the steps of Building 180.
Space Flight Support Building: JPL’s Building 264, which hosts engineers supporting space missions in flight, used to be just two stories, but then the Viking project to Mars needed more room. This “then” image dates back to January 1972. The building still serves the same function today, but has eight floors. The “now” image was taken in October 2014.
Where We Tested Rocket Torpedoes: During World War II, JPL had a contract with the U.S. Army to develop rocket torpedoes. This picture from August 1944 shows the test facility, known as the “Tow Channel.” It was used for storage for many years before being torn out to make space for the Earth and Space Science Laboratory (Building 300) and the Microdevices Laboratory (Building 302). The “now” image was taken in October 2014.
JPL’s Gathering Place: The “then” image shows the open-air gathering area known as “The Mall,” in 1971, looking east towards the Applied Mechanics Building (the blocky white building now numbered 157). The person in the foreground is Robert Steinbacher, the project scientist for the Mariner 9 mission to Mars. The concrete bridge crossing the ponds remains, even though the ponds have been removed, in this October 2014 image. Many trees and another building, the Central Engineering Building (301), block the view to Building 157 now.
Former Administration Building: Building 11, one of the oldest buildings on lab, was once JPL’s Administration Building. It is now the Space Sciences Laboratory. The pictures show the building in May 1943 and October 2014.
All Images Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech