1972-01-00: JPL

When Susan and I married in October 1971, I didn’t have a job. Her former boss, Dr. Agnes Stroud, arranged an interview at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that resulted in my being hired as a contractor in January 1972, to perform computer-related tasks as needed.

I’ve documented the high point of my JPL “career” elsewhere. In summary, the tasks I worked on were:

  • Helping Dr. Len Jaffe, the Principal Scientist of the Lunar Surveyor program, analyze the size distribution of lunar fine particles returned to earth by the Apollo 12 mission.
  • Developing the control software for JPL’s first proof-of-concept planetary rover.
  • Working in the Image Processing Laboratory, applying (and developing, in a minor way) techniques to analyze digital images (from planetary probes, ERTS (now Landsat), and aerial photography). We also enhanced the launch images for the Skylab launch, to try to determine how much damage occurred when a solar panel tore loose during the launch. A lot of the work was determing land use and vegetation types in the Verde Valley, Arizona, and on the shore of Lake Mead.

While I was working on the robot, a representative of General Electric came to JPL to demonstrate a teleoperate manipulator. I was one of the few selected to actually try it out after its “handler” demonstrated it. He used it to pick up a large steel plate, and to use a large plastic basketball backboard like a ping-pong paddle, batting around a basketball. I simply moved the unloaded arm around for a couple of minutes, but they gave me a picture/certificate! There is a website with a video of the Man-Mate in action, featuring the same man who demo’d it at JPL.

I left JPL in August 1973.





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