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Take an Up Close Look at Caltech’s Role in the Apollo Program

Published on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 | 3:46 pm

Apollo 11’s historic “giant leap” into history would not have been capable without some jet propulsion from a certain Pasadena-based laboratory, and Caltech’s Theodore von Kármán lecture series will consider that matter at a July 17 talk by academic luminaries.

The von Kármán lecture series is named after the founder of Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and its next edition will discuss the significant role JPL played in the Apollo space program.

The Apollo program’s conquering of the moon took a decade of intense preparation to accomplish. It required a huge Earth-bound support system.

JPL’s role in the program entailed robotic precursor missions – unmanned remote controlled spacecraft that probed the lunar environment – and management of the Deep Space Network, which relayed television transmissions and provided backup communications capability.

In the meantime, Caltech – which operates JPL for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – established a laboratory in the mid-1960s to develop techniques that needed for analyzing lunar samples. Once Apollo 11’s trove of Moon rocks were on the ground, Caltech researchers raced to contribute to the first stunning scientific results NASA shared with the world.

Friday’s event will focus on understanding Caltech’s and JPL’s supporting role in one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Hosted by Preston Dyches, the event will feature Blaine Baggett, a JPL Fellow and Emmy award-winning producer; Arden Albee, Caltech Professor Emeritus of Geology and Planetary Science; and John Casani, a JPL veteran engineer of the Ranger and Surveyor robotic missions era.

The von Kármán Lecture Series, presented by JPL’s Office of Communication and Education, brings the excitement of the space program’s missions, instruments and other technologies to both JPL employees and the local community.

This is a free event and no tickets or reservations are required.

The lecture starts at 7 p.m. and runs through to 8:30 p.m. at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium.

For more information, call (626) 395-4652 or visit






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