Slice of History
On this page the JPL Archivists share historical photos from the JPL Archives. The JPL Archives' mission is to document the rich organizational, mission, and cultural histories of the institution by identifying, collecting, preserving, and making available primary source materials that have value for research by users at JPL/Caltech/NASA and the wider public. We may be contacted for research services at email@example.com.
International Coffee Day
1 October is International Coffee Day! These images show just how long coffee has been an important part of any JPLer’s morning.
Happy 55th Anniversary, Surveyor II!
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.
60 Years of Ranger
August 23, 1961 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.
The JPL Annual Picnic
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.
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.
Happy Birthday, Dr. von Kármán!
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.
Slice of History - It’s 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.
Advisory Council for Women (ACW) at JPL
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’d like to highlight a very unique organization within JPL: the Advisory Council for Women (ACW).
75th Anniversary of WAC Corporal
22 March marks the 75th anniversary of the first American rocket to escape Earth’s atmosphere, the JPL-Ordnance WAC!
Famous JPL Visitors: Sidney Poitier
JPL has had many famous and interesting visitors over the years, from fellow scientists, to film industry stars, to musicians, to reporters, and many more. One of our most notable visits was from legendary actor and diplomat, Sidney Poitier.
1950s Sports Clubs
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.”
JPL at the Rose Parade
Happy New Year! Courtesy of the Tournament of Roses Foundation, this photo depicts the JPL entry to the Rose Parade in January 1976.
Holidays at JPL
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.
JPL Blood Drives
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.
Viking Orbiter 2 Anniversary
9 September 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the launch of Viking Orbiter 2.
6 October celebrates the 30th anniversary of the launch of Ulysses.
Mask Training in 1957
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.
Remembering Dr. Peter T. Lyman
This month we remember Dr. Peter T. Lyman, who passed away in May 2020, with a series of photos from his tenure as Deputy Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Dr. Henry Richter working on Explorer 1 in 1957
In 2018 JPL celebrates the 60th anniversary of America’s first satellite, Explorer 1.
An orrery was built for NASA/JPL by Pre-Mec Engineering, Inc. and was designed by JPL engineer Raymond A. McCreary (Design Section, 356 – part of the Engineering Mechanics Division).
Mariner Jupiter Saturn 1977
In August and September 1977, two Voyager spacecraft were launched on a Grand Tour of the solar system. In 1973, the mission had been named Mariner Jupiter-Saturn 1977 (MJS ‘77) and was intended to go only as far as Jupiter and Saturn.
Mars Pathfinder Rover Team, 1994
In December 1994, a group of Mars Pathfinder team members gathered for a photo with the Sojourner Rover model. They were working on rover technology development efforts about two years before the anticipated launch date.
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.
Titan Saturn Mission Artwork, 1976
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.
Ten-Foot Space Simulator Thermal Testing
In early 1989, a series of thermal tests were conducted on the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) Instrument, which was part of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS).
JPL’s First Digital Computer
In January 1953, JPL was in the market for its first digital computer.
Rocket Motor Test – 32nd Anniversary, 1968
On October 31, 1968 JPL celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the first rocket motor tests in the Arroyo Seco.
Goldstone Deep Space Instrumentation Facility
This photo shows the “Transmitting Station” at what was then called the Goldstone Deep Space Instrumentation Facility (also known as the Goldstone Tracking Station or GTS).
Induction Wind Tunnel, 1947
Reports and brochures about the history of aerodynamic facilities at JPL usually identify the 12-inch Supersonic Wind Tunnel as the first wind tunnel at JPL. It went into operation in 1949.