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The (somewhat strangely named) video clip How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL contains several shots of what looks like an ion propulsion laboratory at JPL. The video was uploaded in 2009 and the lab may be older than that (Deep Space 1 was launched on 24 October 1998).

Below are several screen shots of the lab, including two prominent features:

  1. a large circular pattern with what looks like about ten mass flow controllers for input gasses and a few controllers for pumping ports and a big analog mechanical needle gauge reading pressure perhaps
  2. a large hexagonal arrangement of 37 rectangular control panels

Question: What JPL laboratory is this exactly, and what are the functions of these amazing-looking control panels?


click for larger; I'm not 100% sure, but one of these might not be from JPL

Screen shot of some laboratory from How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL Screen shot of some laboratory from How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL

Screen shot of some laboratory from How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL Screen shot of some laboratory from How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL

Screen shot of some laboratory from How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL Screen shot of some laboratory from How William Shatner Changed the World - Dr. Marc D. Rayman, Chief Propulsion Engineer, NASA, JPL

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    $\begingroup$ The middle right one was obviously operated in Los Angeles under the control of William Shatner and Gene Roddenberry. They never managed to get it running though. $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    May 1 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ @asdfex indeed, and Desilu Productions :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 1 at 11:24
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Other than the Star Trek one, these images are of the controls of the JPL 25-foot space simulator. This was built in 1961 which is why it looks like it does. It is still in use, and Ingenuity, for instance, was tested in this. Here is a blog post from someone who visited it: you can see an image of part of the control panel there.

I'm afraid I don't know the functions of the controls, although the huge hexagonal array has 'Solar Lamp Control Console' above it so it's presumably there to control whatever simulates Solar radiation. The purpose of the system as a whole is to be able to reproduce conditions that spacecraft will encounter in space and presumably on the surface of other planets.

Here (video link) is a video of Ingenuity being tested in it. (Thanks uhoh).

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    $\begingroup$ Wow! "It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and is on the National Register of Historic Places." $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 1 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: I should think it was quite important to the 1960s space programme! I kind of like that Ingenuity was tested in the same place that, say, the Apollo capsules probably were. $\endgroup$
    – user21103
    May 1 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: yes, I think so. I've added your link: thank you. $\endgroup$
    – user21103
    May 1 at 13:29

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