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About JPL

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Overview

"Do not go where the path may lead," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail." That could be the motto of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Trailblazing has been the business of JPL since it was established by the California Institute of Technology in the 1930s. America's first satellite, Explorer 1 which launched in 1958, was created at JPL. In the decades that followed, we sent the first robotic craft to the moon and out across the solar system, reconnoitering all of the planets. Pushing the outer edge of exploration, in fact, is the reason JPL exists as a NASA laboratory.

In that spirit, this is an exceptionally busy period for JPL in laying new paths. In 2014, we will launch four new missions.  Three are designed to monitor our home planet:  RapidScat, an instrument that will measure ocean winds from the vantage point of the International Space Station; Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, a satellite that will study atmospheric carbon dioxide; and the Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, a satellite that will map Earth’s soil moisture.  The fourth mission to launch this year, OPALS, is an experiment that will demonstrate optical communication from the International Space Station to the ground.


JPL Director Dr. Charles Elachi Image left: Dr. Charles Elachi, JPL Director. Image credit: JPL.
+ Dr. Elachi biography

They come at a time when we are celebrating anniversaries of some of our most productive missions.  January 2014 marks 10 years that the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been ranging across the Red Planet.  June 2014 will be the 10th anniversary of the Cassini spacecraft’s arrival at Saturn, setting of a long orbital mission with many tours of the ringed planet’s moons.  In the past year the Spitzer Space Telescope logged 10 years aloft, delivering a rich trove of science findings including detecting the first light from a planet outside our solar system. And 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network, the system of ground stations on three continents that communicate with spacecraft throughout the solar system.


In total, JPL has 21 spacecraft and 9 instruments conducting active missions. All of these are important parts of NASA's program of exploration of Earth, the solar system and the universe beyond. While carrying out these exploration missions, JPL also conducts a number of space technology demonstrations in support of national security and develops technologies for uses on Earth in fields from public safety to medicine, capitalizing on NASA's investment in space technology.

The stories of these mighty things we dare are told in the pages that begin here.

Dr. Charles Elachi
Director

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, California 91109
(818) 354-4321

Related Sites

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Page Last Updated: January 21st, 2014
Page Editor: Jon Nelson