Author Archive

Slice of History: Is It a JPL Magic Trick?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

magnetic bearing
Is it a JPL magic trick? — Photograph 328-161Ac

In 1960 through 1961, several different experiments were conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in search of a frictionless bearing for use in space applications, gyroscopes and other machinery. There were cryogenic, gas and electrostatic types of bearings, and the photo above shows a magnetic bearing. It was suspended by counterbalancing the force of gravity and an electromagnet. A servo feedback system continually corrected the current flow through the electromagnet to keep it stable.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Free Fall Capsule Drop Test

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Free Fall Capsule Drop Test
Free Fall Capsule Drop Test — Photograph Number 354-595

In 1961, a drop capsule was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., by Section 354, Engineering Research. It was an experimental chamber to study how liquids behave in free-fall (zero gravity). The prototype capsule was dropped from a helicopter hovering at 800 feet, but the capsule was found to be too unstable for these tests. In September 1962, a trial drop was done from the Bailey bridge that connected JPL to the east parking lot. Testing was then moved to a bridge crossing Glen Canyon near Page, Arizona. The dam was under construction at the time and provided a 672-foot-fall with a soft dirt impact area.

The 204 pound shell contained a high-impact sequence camera designed for this experiment, a stopwatch, a liquid sample and a release mechanism. Three external motion picture cameras with different focal lengths looked down on the capsule as it fell. Although the capsule fell for about 10 seconds without rolling, pitching or yawing, there were problems with the internal release mechanism. It appears the experiment was discontinued after two attempts.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Remote Controlled Manipulators

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Remote Controlled Manipulators
Remote Controlled Manipulators — Photograph Number 381-4778B

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s 1971 Annual Report featured this photo of a remote controlled system for handling solid propellants. A 1965 Space Programs Summary report indicated that the equipment had been ordered and would be installed in building 197 within a few months. This equipment made it possible to safely mix and load high energy solid propellants into small motors. Building 197 is still known as the Solid Propellant Engineering Laboratory.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Something is Missing …

Monday, June 4th, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

A large pond and smaller building 264 at JPL
Something is Missing … — Photograph Number JB-16114B

To anyone who came to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., after 1975, this photo may seem odd – building 264 has only two stories, and there is a large pond running down the middle of the mall.

In September 1970, construction began on building 264, the Systems Development Laboratory, a support facility for the Space Flight Operations Facility in building 230. A 7.5 foot tunnel connected the two buildings, lined with racks to support the cables and wiring that joined them. It was constructed as a two story building with a foundation capable of supporting six additional floors, although JPL had to wait several years for additional funding to be approved. The building was finally completed late in 1975, providing mission support for the Viking and Voyager missions, computer space, and three floors of office space.

The pond was nearly 300 feet long, stretching from the mall fountain to a parking area at the east end of building 183. It was built in 1967 and removed by about 1989, but the fountain remains.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Scanning Electron Microscope

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Scanning Electron Microscope
Scanning Electron Microscope — Photograph Number 354-1043B

In late 1967, this Stereoscan Mark VI scanning electron microscope (SEM) was delivered to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory by the Cambridge Instrument Company. They were in high demand at the time, and JPL had to wait nearly a year between placing the order and delivery. It was used by the Electronic Parts Engineering Section Failure Analysis Laboratory to examine microcircuits for defects. Other possible uses were for the study of metals and other materials, and to examine spores for the Capsule Sterilization Program. It used an electron beam to scan the specimen rather than visible light, at a magnification of 20X to 50,000X. The camera on the front right side could be used to record the images.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Vice President Lyndon Johnson Visits JPL

Monday, February 27th, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Vice President Lyndon Johnson Visits JPL
Vice President Lyndon Johnson Visits JPL — Photograph Number P-1723A

On October 4, 1961, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In his role as chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, he toured the Lab and heard presentations about JPL’s lunar programs (Ranger and Surveyor), planetary program, the Deep Space Network and future plans. President John F. Kennedy had made his presentation to Congress several months earlier about putting a man on the moon before the decade ended. During the 1960s, JPL’s role shifted somewhat from lunar and planetary exploration to support of and preparation for manned missions to the moon and planets.

This photo shows Johnson walking out of the cafeteria (then located in Building 114) with JPL Director William Pickering while employees gathered around.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Surveyor 3 Camera Returned from the Moon

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

ASurveyor 3 Camera Returned from the Moon
Surveyor 3 Camera Returned from the Moon — Photograph Number P-10709B

In November 1969 Apollo 12 astronauts Alan Bean and Pete Conrad landed on the moon less than 600 feet from NASA’s Surveyor 3 spacecraft, which had been there since April 1967. They removed the camera, some cable and tubing, and the trenching scoop from the lander and brought them back to Earth so that the effects of prolonged lunar exposure could be studied by Hughes Aircraft Company (the spacecraft prime contractor) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Surveyor 3 camera was kept under quarantine and studied for several weeks at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston. Then it was shipped to the Hughes facility in Culver City, Calif. This photo was taken in January 1970, probably at the Hughes facility, where Hughes and JPL employees photographed, disassembled and studied the camera in detail.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Advanced Ocean Technology Development Platform

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Advanced Ocean Technology Development Platform
Advanced Ocean Technology Development Platform — Photograph Number P-23298B

The Advanced Ocean Technology Development Platform (AOTDP) was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the late 1970s by the Undersea Technology Program Office. The project applied space program instruments and systems to ocean exploration, mapping and resource assessment. This photo was taken in December 1980, after more than two months of engineering tests around Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors. The AOTDP shallow water test team included, from left to right, Sherry Wheelock, Don Hoff, Gary Bruner, Larry Broms, Curtis Tucker, Hal Holway, Garry Paine, Martin Orton and task manager Bill Gulizia.

The submersible vehicle test platform carried digital side-looking sonar for underwater imaging and a tow cable connecting the submersible to its companion surface ship, providing command, telemetry and power links. There was a shipboard control and data acquisition center to process and display the information gathered by the submersible, at rates of up to 250,000 bits per second. It was designed to descend as deep as 20,000 feet, but test tows were conducted at depths of about 600 feet. The project was funded by NASA and tests designed to improve the side-looking sonar instrument were sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Freeway Tunnel Simulator

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Freeway tunnel simulator
Freeway Tunnel Simulator — Photograph Number P-20673A

In October 1978, this photo was taken of a freeway tunnel simulator, which was used to study the air quality in freeways that were partly covered by buildings, streets or parks in an urban area. The Highway Intermittent Tunnel Simulator (HITS) project was carried out at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory under a contract with the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation. A series of reports from this project were written to assist highway planning and design.

The simulator used electric motors to power two adjustable speed belts traveling in opposite directions, with 75 scale model automobiles attached. They could travel at about 40 “mph” (to scale) along a 110-foot straightaway. A gas was introduced into the tunnels to simulate exhaust fumes. Concentration and dispersion of the gas were measured as the automobiles moved through the tunnels. Test parameters such as distance between openings, type of traffic dividers and traffic speed were varied to see how they affected the air flow patterns.

At left is Bain Dayman, the HITS project manager. At right are Howard Jongedyk, FHA contract manager; Curtis Tucker, facility design engineer; and Robert Baxter, a contractor with AeroVironment, Inc., Pasadena. Most of the people working on this project were part of the Civil Systems Engineering Section at JPL.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.


Slice of History: Cookie Cutter Missile Propellant

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

By Julie Cooper

Each month in “Slice of History” we feature a historical photo from the JPL Archives. See more historical photos and explore the JPL Archives at https://beacon.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Cookie Cutter Missile Propellant
Cookie Cutter Missile Propellant — Photograph Number 381-490

The ORDCIT Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a research and development program about long-range jet propelled missiles. Under a contract with the Army’s Ordnance Department, a series of solid propellants were developed and tested. This photo shows a neoprene based formula referred to as ORDCIT 29, created in 1945.

Ingredients were mixed and formed into a sheet using a small roller mill. The uncured sheet was laid on a table and cut into disks, using a tool that looked like a large cookie cutter. The disks were stacked and wrapped in a neoprene liner. This cylinder was then placed in a mold and compressed. The locked mold was placed in an oven at high temperatures to vulcanize the charge and fuse the propellant and liner into one solid piece.

Twenty-one of these restricted-burning solid propellant cartridges were tested at various temperatures and various chamber pressures. The results were promising, and Progress Report No. 4-25 recommended more extensive testing.

This post was written for “Historical Photo of the Month,” a blog by Julie Cooper of JPL’s Library and Archives Group.