A Brief Photographic History of
JPL's Development of the Table Mountain Facility
Part 1 of 4


Part 1: 1961 - 1962
Part 2: 1962 - 1965

The Headquarters Building of the Table Mountain Facility as seen in May 1987. This building houses the resident staff member offices, kitchen and dormitory accomodations for all visiting science users and a library/conference room. Staff members include the facility operations manager, the resident astronomers and Lidar manager. Some dormitory accommodations include office space for extended users.

In a remote location with excellent viewing conditions and fine transparent skies, the Table Mountain Facility is increasingly sought after as a site for scientific investigation of the earth's atmosphere, solar radiation, and solar system astronomy. Formally known as the Table Mountain Observatory, the name reflects a greater diversity of current operations and programs.

Table Mountain is located in the San Gabriel Mountains at an elevation of 7500 feet. Although remote, the facility is only an 80-mile drive from Los Angeles. The Smithsonian Institution established the 'observatory' in 1926, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory acquired the USFS lease permit for the site in 1962. The following pictures show the progression of the site's development from 1961.

The above photograph, dated in the fall of 1961, shows one of the original residence buildings used when Smithsonian occupied the mountain.

This and the following picture were taken late in 1961 during a site survey JPL conducted to determine the feasibility of using Table Mountain for an astronomical observatory. The picture above shows the main residence that was used by the Smithsonian site resident observer. The picture below shows the 'bunker' used by the solar irradiance equipment for the Smithsonian measurements during the 1920-50 time period.

The above photograph, looking ESE, shows the solar panel testing operation by JPL in May, 1962. JPL had been using the site on a limited basis to test spacecraft solar panels in the late 50's and early 60's. JPL acquired the lease permit from the United States Forestry (USF) in the spring of 1962, and purchased the facility buildings left by Smithsonian which were in remarkably good repair.

A 16-inch optical telescope had already been purchased, so plans were drawn up for the first new building JPL would add to the site. Known as 'TM-1', the observatory building to house the telescope was completed in July, the telescope was placed into operation, and initial tests (first light) were conducted on August 1.

The following pictures show the building under construction (1), and Charles F. Capen, Jr., testing the drive mechanism for the telescope (2) just before the initial tests were conducted.

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