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JPL and KCET Present Special Trilogy of Documentaries on the Beginnings of the Space Age

jpl and KCET present SPECIAL trilogy OF DOCUMENTARIES on the beginnings of the space age 

"The American Rocketeer," "Explorer 1" and "Destination Moon" are produced by JPL and will air on KCET throughout November.

Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 10, 2011 - A documentary triology entitled Beginnings of the Space Age explores the intriguing characters and pivotal events that helped establish NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the world's leading center for robotic exploration of the solar system and beyond. The series of specials will air exclusively on KCET throughout November and includes: "The American Rocketeer" on Nov. 3, 2011 at 9 p.m.; "Explorer 1" on Nov. 10, 2011 at

9 p.m.; and "Destination Moon" on Nov. 17, 2011 at 9 p.m.

Produced, written and directed by JPL's Blaine Baggett, a national Emmy award-winning documentarian, the three-part series leads viewers on a dramatic journey into America's history of space exploration that begins on the trails of the Pasadena Arroyo, launches the United States into Earth orbit, touches the moon before the Apollo astronauts, and accomplishes the first-ever visit to another planet.

Marking its television premiere Nov. 3, 2011 at 9 p.m., "The American Rocketeer" tells the controversial story of aviation engineer Frank Malina, whose fundamental role in the evolution of American rocketry is largely forgotten. Malina, along with a motley crew of amateur rocket enthusiasts and fellow California Institute of Technology students, conducted the first stand-up rocket engine test on Halloween in 1936 in the Pasadena Arroyo. On this 75th anniversary of those tests, the 90-minute, intensely personal documentary explores the complexities of Malina's life and the profound ramifications his work had on Caltech and the nation.  

"Though there are many fascinating characters in The American Rocketeer, at its core, this film is a personal story of one man's dreams," noted Baggett, "and how his ideas and idealism put him on a collision course with the world."

"Explorer 1" is the second episode of Beginnings of the Space Age, airing Nov. 10, 2011 at 9 p.m. The 60-minute documentary reveals how JPL and the U.S. Army could have been the first to place a satellite into Earth orbit, had they only been given the chance.  That opportunity was lost when the Eisenhower administration, unsure of what the Soviet reaction would be to a satellite launched (in part) by the U.S. Army military, hesitated and assigned the project to a civilian-led program called Vanguard.  The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in October 1957, shocking the world and creating the "Race for Space" in the midst of the Cold War. Only after the Vanguard rocket exploded on the launch pad were JPL and the U.S. Army given its chance. The result was Explorer 1, the first successful U.S.satellite, which also achieved the first space science results. 

Airing Nov. 17, 2011 at 9 p.m., "Destination Moon" is the third in the trio of documentaries about the beginnings of the space age. It documents JPL's ambitious plan to beat the Soviet Union in robotic space exploration by reaching not only for the moon, but also the inner planets. But as the hour-long episode documents, JPL would be humbled by a series of failures in attempting to merely hit the moon, let alone visit other planets.  "We didn't know what we were doing," one veteran JPL engineer confides, "and there was no one around to tell us."  This film shows how JPL did learn to go to the moon and to the planet Venus, giving the United States its first "First in Space."

For more information on Beginnings of the Space Age, and full episodic descriptions, please visit www.kcet.org/spaceage.

Production Credits: Beginnings of the Space Age

Producer: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Producer, writer and director: Blaine Baggett

Senior Producer: Stephen Kulzcycki

Associate Producer: Laura Cinco-Farrell

Narrator: Neil Ross

Editor of Episodes 1 & 3: Christopher Harris

Editor of Episode 2: Jess Doherty

Animator: John Howard

About Blaine Baggett

The producer, writer and director of The Beginnings of the Space Age is Blaine Baggett, JPL's Director of Communications and Education.  Prior to joining JPL, Baggett produced documentaries for KCET. His body of work has been recognized by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the duPont-Columbia Excellence in Journalism Award, the Peabody Awards and many others. He was one of NASA's finalists for the First Journalist in Space, a competition put on indefinite hold following the Challenger accident. 


The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center, is managed by the California Institute of Technology on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. JPL is the world's leading center for the robotic exploration of the solar system and beyond. More information about JPL is online at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov .

About KCET

On-air, online and in the community, KCET plays a vital role in the cultural and educational enrichment of Southern and Central California. KCET currently produces the Emmy®, duPont-Columbia and Peabody Award-winning SoCal Connected, a hard-hitting prime-time weekly television news program that examines the issues and people of Southern California. Throughout its 47-year history, KCET has won hundreds of major awards for its local and regional news and public affairs programming, its national drama and documentary productions, its quality educational family and children's programs, its outreach and community services and its website, kcet.org. KCET is a donor-supported community institution. More than half of the funds raised to support KCET's operating budget come from individual support. For additional information about KCET productions, Web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit kcet.org.

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