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Caltech rocket scientists founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1936, and the Institute now manages it for NASA. The Lab is a leader in robotic space exploration that sends rovers to Mars, probes to the far reaches of the solar system, and satellites into orbit. In addition to its active space missions, JPL's research and technology development programs advance our understanding of Earth and beyond.

Welcome to the Lab

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has explored our solar system and beyond for more than 80 years. Its spacecraft have flown to every planet in the solar system, the Sun, and into interstellar space in a quest to better understand the origins of the universe, and of life. Cameras and optics technologies developed at JPL captured the pale blue dot of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away during the Voyager 1 mission and helped the Hubble Space Telescope bring the wonders of the universe into focus.

Today, JPL continues its world-leading innovation with programs in planetary exploration, earth science, space-based astronomy, and technology development, while applying its capabilities to technical and scientific problems of national significance.

We are continuing to invest in the next generation of scientists and engineers—we need the best and brightest minds to help us explore the frontiers of space. The extraordinary progress we've made … is because of the dedication, collaboration, and commitment of the JPL community. As we inspire the world to think bigger and imagine what's possible, it is truly a privilege to lead this exceptional team into the next era of our scientific exploration and groundbreaking innovation.

JPL Director Laurie Leshin (PhD '95)

How JPL Technology Improves Life on Earth

UCLA's Dr. Tisha Wang and colleagues posing in the lab with thumbs up, showing the NASA logo.

Many JPL innovations improve health care, public safety, and communications. For example: During the COVID-19 pandemic, JPL engineers developed a low-cost ventilator prototype specifically to treat COVID patients. They developed the device in just 37 days and licensed it free to manufacturers.

When you use your cellphone, think of JPL. The Lab is where an imaging technology based on an Active Pixel Sensor technology (CMOS APS), which uses 1/100th the power of CCDs, led to the birth of consumer-level high-quality digital photography such as what's available for use inside our smartphones.

The Earth and the Moon

The Lab is known internationally for its journeys to other worlds, but JPL's missions to study our planet and its natural satellite help researchers understand climate change and where there is water on the Moon.

Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT)

The SWOT mission brings together two communities focused on developing a better understanding of the world's oceans and its terrestrial surface waters. U.S. and French oceanographers and hydrologists and international partners have joined forces to develop this satellite mission to make the first global survey of Earth's surface water, observe the fine details of the ocean's surface topography, and measure how water bodies change over time.

Lunar Trailblazer

The Golden Lunar Trailblazer spacecraft in space.
Lunar Trailblazer spacecraft
Credit: Caltech/NASA-JPL

Professor of Planetary Science Bethany Ehlmann is the principal investigator on Lunar Trailblazer, an upcoming NASA mission to map the Moon's surface from orbit. The information this small satellite will provide after it launches later this year will ultimately help researchers understand the form, abundance, and distribution of water on the Moon, and set the stage for the next generation of lunar exploration.

On the Red Planet

Past JPL landers including Spirit, Opportunity, and InSight revealed secrets of the Martian surface. A new generation of missions has continued their legacy.

Perseverance Rover

Illustration showing NASA's Mars 2020 spacecraft carrying the Perseverance rover as it approaches Mars.
This illustration shows NASA's Mars 2020 spacecraft carrying the Perseverance rover as it approached Mars. Hundreds of critical events had to be executed perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on February 18, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Perseverance Mars rover is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. Perseverance is investigating Jezero Crater – a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favorable for microbial life – probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life. Learn more about the Perseverance rover.

Curiosity Rover

Illustration depicting the rover Curiosity, of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface.
This artist's concept depicts the rover Curiosity, of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity set out to answer the question of whether Mars ever had the right environmental conditions to support microbial life. Early in its mission, Curiosity's scientific tools found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on Mars. It continues to explore the rock record from a time when Mars could have been home to microbial life. Learn more about the Curiosity Rover.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

Illustration of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was a small autonomous aircraft sent to Mars to perform experimental flight tests that proved powered controlled flight on the Red Planet was possible.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter, was a technology demonstration that successfully tested powered controlled flight on another world for the first time. It hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover. Once the rover reached a suitable "airfield" location, it released Ingenuity to the surface so it could perform a series of test flights. Ingenuity flew 72 times with an average flight time of more than two hours, reaching a maximum altitude of 24 meters, before it completed its mission on January 25, 2024 . Learn more about the Mars Helicopter.

Across the Solar System and Beyond

JPL missions have given humanity its first up-close glimpse of the planets in the outer solar system, investigated intriguing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and investigated the composition of comets and asteroids.

Psyche Orbiter

The Psyche spacecraft, which launched in October of 2023, is making a journey to a unique metal-rich asteroid, also called Psyche, that orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. By August 2029, the spacecraft will begin exploring the asteroid, which, scientists think, may be the partial core of a planetesimal, a building block of an early planet. Learn more about the Psyche Orbiter.


The twin Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Their primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. In August 2012, Voyager 1 made the historic entry into interstellar space, the region between stars. Voyager 2 entered interstellar space on November 5, 2018. The adventurers' current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun's domain, and beyond. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network, or DSN. Learn more about the Voyager missions.

Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)

The NuSTAR telescope against the black backdrop of space.
NuSTAR mission
Credit: NASA

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, mission, which launched in 2012, studies the universe in high-energy X-rays to better understand the dynamics of black holes, exploding stars, and the most extreme active galaxies. Led by Fiona Harrison, Caltech's Harold A. Rosen Professor of Physics and the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy, the mission is opening a new window on the universe. NuSTAR is the first hard-focusing X-ray telescope to orbit Earth and has greatly improved on observations from ground-based observatories.