JPL—The Suicide Squad’s First Mission (+)

"Suicide Squad" members, from left: Rudolph Schott, Amo Smith, Frank Malina, Ed Forman, and Jack Parsons.
“Suicide Squad” members, from left: Rudolph Schott, Amo Smith, Frank Malina, Ed Forman, and Jack Parsons.
Photo courtesy JPL

“The Rocketmen” video, one chapter in a documentary series about the early days of JPL, focuses on the origin of the rocketry pioneers known on campus as the “Suicide Squad” for their dangerous experiments.

The group was highlighted in the Spring 2014 issue of E&S in an article titled “Launch Points,” and JPL’s three-minute video offers even more interesting details about it.

The video covers the group’s first rocket motor test in 1936, conducted in a remote part of the Arroyo Seco on Halloween. JPL historian Erik Conway notes onscreen that the initial efforts fizzled when the fuse sputtered out. “On the fourth try, the motor ignited and the oxygen line whipped around, started shooting fire, and they all ran away,” Conway says, adding that the group considered the experiment a success in part because “they learned a number of things not to do.”