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Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Annual Report 2004Once or twice in an age, a year comes along that the historians proclaim as an Annus Mirabilis - a year of wonders. For the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2004 was just that sort of time. From beginning to end, it was a nonstop experience of wondrous events in space. Imagine that two robot rovers embark on cross-country rambles across Mars, scrutinizing rocks for signs of past water on the now-arid world. A flagship spacecraft brakes into orbit at Saturn to begin longterm surveillance of the ringed world, preparing to drop a sophisticated probe to the surface of its haze-shrouded largest moon. Another craft makes the closest-ever pass by the nucleus of a comet, collecting sample particles as it goes. Two new space telescopes peer into the depths of the universe far beyond our solar system, viewing stars, nebulas and galaxies in invisible light beyond the spectrum our eyes can see. A pair of instruments is lofted on a NASA Earth-orbiting satellite to monitor air quality and the protective layer of ozone blanketing our home planet. A small probe brings samples of the solar wind to Earth for in-depth study. While JPL was absorbed with all of these ventures on other worlds, NASA and the White House unveiled an ambitious new plan of space exploration. The Vision for Space Exploration announced in January foresees a program of robotic and astronaut missions leading to a human return to the Moon by 2020, and eventual crewed expeditions to Mars. The vision also calls for more robotic missions to the moons of the outer planets; spaceborne observatories that will search for Earth-like planets around other stars and explore the formation and evolution of the universe; and continued study of our home planet. In order to accomplish all of this, NASA must perfect many as-yet-uninvented technologies and space transportation capabilities. JPL has a great deal to bring to this vision. Robotic exploration of Mars will lead the way for missions that will carry women and men to the red planet. Our engineers and scientists are formulating spacecraft that could use nuclear power to enable exploration missions of the future. And even now we are designing formations of space telescopes that will capture family portraits of the planets around neighboring stars. Those are only some of the ways that the Laboratory is contributing to NASA's broader goals. During 2004, JPL made a distinctive contribution to agencywide initiatives in areas such as safety, NASA transformation, the agency's Internet portal and NASA's Explorer Schools programs. Years like 2004 pose a special challenge for us. It would be easy to say that this was a once-in-a-decade high point of mission activities, but I believe that this would miss an opportunity. We are fortunate to have many space projects in the works that have the promise of being just as exhilarating as the great mission successes that we celebrated this year. The challenge and opportunity for us now is to make every year like this one.
Document ID
Document Type
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
March 1, 2005
Subject Category
Astronautics (General)
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)