The Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Everone has heard of NASA, but how many people have heard of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the trail-blazing agency which has made by far the greatest global contribution to space exploration?

The JPL Headquarters, Pasadena, California.

Employing more than 5,000 staff  and around 3,000 contractors, JPL is the planning and construction centre for all American unmanned space flights. Originally founded in 1936 to undertake rocket research, the agency merged with NASA on its foundation in 1958, and since then JPL has been responsible for designing, building and managing  countless space exploration missions  including probes to Mars, Venus and Mercury, and now onward  beyond  the edge of interplanetary space. By far the most famous of their projects is the Voyager  programme , two spacecraft were launched in 1977 on a four year mission to the outer planets and are still sending back important data 33 years later.

To see the latest information on the flights, click on the Voyager Mission badge below:

The Golden Records on board both Voyager spacecraft carry a greeting to any form of life, should that be encountered. The message is carried by a phonograph record – a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages.

The JPL main website has a mass of information about all their missions, including wonderful photographs, videos and multimedia programs for all ages. Just click on the logo to take a look:

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