Science & Technology

JPL and the Space Age: To the Rescue (NASA Documentary)

Mars Observer (artist’s concept). Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech

Hubble in 1990 meant trouble. The highly touted space telescope was designed to escape Earth’s blurry atmosphere to capture unparalleled visual images of the universe. But its creators were shocked to discover that it was cruelly nearsighted from a minuscule flaw.

Enter NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and engineers who offered up an ingenious solution to Hubble’s visual woes. But would it work?

Hubble was not the only space misadventure getting JPL’s attention during the 1990s. The Magellan spacecraft, nicknamed “Salvage 1” for its reliance on spare parts, barely survived its arrival at Venus. Galileo, destined for Jupiter and at the time the world’s most sophisticated spacecraft, barely skirted mission failure when its main communications antenna refused to unfurl.

And Mars Observer, the first mission to the Red Planet in nearly two decades, would mysteriously disappear just before going into orbit. To the Rescue explores all of these iconic examples of the tireless effort and indomitable ingenuity of JPL engineers as they attempt to rescue the machines they had lofted into the heavens.

“To the Rescue” is a NASA documentary that takes viewers on a journey through the challenges faced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the 1990s while attempting to rescue some of their iconic space missions. The Hubble space telescope, designed to capture stunning images of the universe, suffered from a minuscule flaw that rendered it nearly useless. JPL engineers offered a solution to the problem, but it remained to be seen if it would work. Meanwhile, Magellan barely survived its arrival at Venus, Galileo skirted mission failure, and Mars Observer mysteriously disappeared just before going into orbit. The documentary showcases the tireless efforts and indomitable ingenuity of JPL engineers as they attempt to rescue the machines they had launched into space.

JPL and the Space Age Video Series

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