Interesting Facts About NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory work on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity in May 2011. The rover is upside-down, and its six wheels are off (they rest on a table, at far right of the photo).
CREDIT: Mike Wall/SPACE.com
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a research and development center focused on robotic planetary spacecraft. In 2012, scientists and engineers at the laboratory successfully landed the unmanned Curiosity Rover on Mars, where it will spend about 2 years exploring the red planet.
The center is located in Pasadena, Calif. and currently has about 5,000 employees. It’s sent several unmanned missions into space including the Cassini mission to study Saturn and the Voyager probes that are nearing the edge of the solar system.
Some cool facts about the JPL:
- The lab was founded in 1936 when a group of scientists were given funding from the military to develop rockets that assisted Army planes during takeoff.
- The lab’s unmanned missions to the moon helped pave the way for Apollo 11. Between 1966 to 1968, JPL sent five spacecraft that made soft landings on the moon.
- JPL currently has two probes making their way past our solar system. Voyager 1 is about 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Earth, and Voyager 2 is 9 billion miles (15 billion km) away.
- JPL has sent dozens of spacecraft to explore Mars, including the Viking mission in 1975, the Mars Pathfinder in 1997 and twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity in 2004.
JPL also manages the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope. The WISE telescope found 100,000 previously unknown asteroids in the asteroid belt before it was shut down in 2011.
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