Saturday, January 5, 2008

Blaine Baggett - JPL and the Beginnings of the Space Age

Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 8:00 PM Beckman AuditoriumFREE; no tickets or reservations required

Our premier public screening of the new documentary JPL and the Beginnings of the Space Age, almost exactly 50 years after the launch of Explorer 1, will be followed by discussion and Q&A with writer, producer, and director Blaine Baggett, JPL's Executive Manager of Communications.
At the end of World War II, the fledging efforts of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were at a crossroads. Should this outgrowth of Caltech, involved in building rockets for the U.S. Army, continue on in peace time? The answer came with the coming of the Cold War. JPL would continue its Army rocket development, culminating with the Corporal and Sergeant missiles, which were deployed in Europe as a nuclear deterrent to the Eastern Bloc.
But by 1956 JPL was already seeking a new, non-military role and had set its ambitions on teaming with the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to launch the first satellite into space. Denied that opportunity in 1956 by the Eisenhower administration, JPL and the Von Braun rocket teams could only watch in frustration as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite, in October 1957.
Following the explosion of the U.S. Vanguard rocket just weeks after Sputnik, the White House in desperation turn to the JPL and Huntsville team, which successfully launched Explorer 1 into orbit less than 90 days after being given the go-ahead. The discovery by Explorer 1's instruments of what came to be known as the Van Allen radiation belts was the world's first space science, and set JPL on the path to become the world's preeminent explorer of the solar system and beyond.
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