NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has a storied history that spans nearly nine decades, during which it has played a pivotal role in advancing space exploration and planetary science. Located in Pasadena, California, JPL was established in 1936 as a research and development facility for rocket technology, initially focusing on the development of solid-fuel rocket motors.
One of the most significant turning points in JPL's history occurred in 1958 when it was chosen to design and build the first American satellite, Explorer 1. This marked the United States' entry into the "Space Race" with the Soviet Union. Explorer 1's successful launch into orbit on January 31, 1958, not only marked a significant scientific achievement but also established JPL as a leading force in space exploration.
Over the decades, JPL continued to push the boundaries of space exploration. It became a key player in the Apollo program, responsible for developing the lunar module that would later carry astronauts to the moon's surface. JPL's contributions to the Apollo program were critical in achieving NASA's goal of landing humans on the moon.
However, JPL's legacy extends beyond the moon. It is perhaps most famous for its involvement in Mars exploration. Beginning with the Viking program in the 1970s, JPL designed and operated a series of successful Mars missions, including the Mars rovers Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. These rovers conducted groundbreaking research, providing valuable insights into the Martian environment, geological history, and the potential for past life on the Red Planet.
In recent years, JPL's Mars missions have reached new heights with the successful landing of the Mars rover Perseverance in February 2021. Perseverance is equipped with advanced scientific instruments and a helicopter named Ingenuity, demonstrating JPL's commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in planetary exploration.
JPL's contributions to space exploration aren't limited to Mars. It has been involved in numerous missions across the solar system and beyond. JPL managed the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moon Titan, providing stunning images and invaluable data about these distant worlds. Additionally, JPL played a critical role in the New Horizons mission to Pluto, capturing the first close-up images of this dwarf planet.
One of the unique aspects of JPL's outreach efforts is its "Visions of the Future" series, which consists of stunning posters that blend science and imagination. These posters depict distant planets, exoplanets, and celestial bodies as if they were travel destinations, inspiring both the public and future generations of scientists and engineers. These artistic creations not only educate and inform but also ignite a sense of wonder about the possibilities of space exploration.
How did the posters come about? In 2016, a team at JPL led by David Delgado and Dan Goods collaborated with the design studio Invisible Creature to create a series of posters that would capture the spirit of exploration and discovery. They drew inspiration from the iconic travel posters of the mid-20th century, which promoted exotic destinations on Earth. The idea was to apply the same concept to promote the wonders of the cosmos.
The result was a series of beautifully crafted posters, each highlighting a different celestial destination. These destinations ranged from the futuristic cities of Mars to the icy moons of Jupiter and the mysterious exoplanets beyond our solar system. The posters combined scientific accuracy with artistic creativity, allowing people to imagine what it might be like to visit these distant worlds.
What made these posters truly remarkable was their ability to communicate complex scientific concepts in an accessible and visually captivating way. They encouraged the public to dream about the possibilities of space travel and to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe.
These posters were not just works of art; they served an educational purpose as well. They were made available to the public as high-resolution downloads, allowing schools, museums, and science enthusiasts to use them in educational programs and exhibits. This outreach effort was a testament to JPL's commitment to science communication and public engagement.
Today, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory continues to be a hub of innovation and discovery. It manages missions such as the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover) and the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, to explore the potential habitability of its subsurface ocean. JPL also collaborates on projects like the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space telescope ever launched.
JPL's history is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of knowledge. From its humble beginnings in rocket technology to its current status as a leader in planetary exploration, JPL has consistently pushed the boundaries of what is possible in space science and engineering - and galactic art!
Check out our Space Posters collection including a comprehensive selection of JPL posters.