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Published:January 22nd, 2008 06:25 EST
NASA Invites Everyone to Celebrate Explorer 1 Launch

NASA Invites Everyone to Celebrate Explorer 1 Launch

By SOP newswire

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology/January 17, 2008- A half-century ago, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Explorer 1 spacecraft became America’s first Earth-orbiting satellite when it sailed into space on Jan. 31, 1958. In honor of the historic achievement that launched the United States into the space age, JPL and Caltech invite the public to the premiere of a new documentary chronicling the story of Explorer 1. The screenings are a special presentation of Caltech’s Voice and Vision series and JPL’s Theodore von Karman lecture series.

Following the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in October 1957, and with the explosion of the U.S. Vanguard rocket just weeks later, the White House turned to JPL and the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency to launch a satellite as quickly as possible. JPL designed and built the satellite, the upper stages of the rocket, and a tracking system while the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., produced the liquid-filled rocket. The successful launch of Explorer 1, followed by the formation of NASA in Oct. 1958, transformed JPL from a producer of ballistic missiles to a preeminent center for robotic exploration of our solar system and beyond.

The new documentary, "JPL and the Beginnings of the Space Age" charts that transformation. The 55-minute film was produced by Blaine Baggett, JPL's executive manager for communications and education. Baggett will appear in person to discuss the film on Jan. 25. JPL historian Erik Conway will appear at the Jan. 25 screening.

Thursday, Jan. 24
Location: Beckman Auditorium, California Institute of Technology campus on Michigan Avenue, one block south of Del Mar Blvd, Pasadena
Time: 8 p.m.
Admission: Free

Friday, Jan. 25
Location: Pasadena City College, Vosloh Auditorium 1570 East Colorado Blvd. Pasadena
Time: 7 p.m.
Admission: Free

"Explorer 1: JPL and the Beginnings of the Space Age" will also air on local and national media outlets. In the Los Angeles area, it will air on KCET, Channel 28, on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. The documentary will air nationally on Discovery HD Theater, with multiple airings beginning Jan. 31.

Saturday, Jan. 26 and Sunday, Jan. 27
Educator Conference

JPL will host a two-day educators' conference on Explorer 1 and the history of space flight. Science and social studies educators, museum staff and high school students are invited to attend. Students must register and an adult must accompany youths under 18. Details on the conference can be found at

Monday, Jan. 28 to Sunday, Feb. 3
Ham Radio Operators Dial In Explorer 1 Celebration

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Explorer 1, the JPL Amateur Radio Club will be on the air from 8 a.m. PST on Monday Jan. 28, through 8 p.m. PST on Sunday Feb. 3. A commemorative Explorer 1 QSL card is available to those ham operators who make contact with the station. For further information see JPL's Explorer 1 Events page at:

JPL’s Explorer 1 was the beginning of a half-century of unprecedented exploration. JPL currently manages for NASA 19 spacecraft and six instruments. Four spacecraft are exploring Mars, and that number will increase by one when the Phoenix lander touches down near the Martian north pole on May 25. Other JPL missions and instruments are studying Earth and our oceans; making their way to a rendezvous with a comet; probing deep into the heart of the asteroid belt; exploring Saturn, its moons and rings; and peering into the distant universe to study stars, galaxies and planets beyond our sun. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about JPL's Explorer 1 mission on the Internet, visit The site includes a history on the mission as well as links to archival images and video, and animations.

For more information about JPL on the Internet, visit For information about NASA programs, visit