At his birth in 1914, Jack Parsons - a major player in the story told in my Final Events book - was given the memorable and unusual name of Marvel Whiteside Parsons and had a truly extraordinary life.
An undoubted genius, he indirectly led NASA to send the Apollo astronauts to the Moon in 1969.
Moreover, the Aerojet Corporation – which Parsons personally founded - produced solid-fuel rocket boosters for the Space Shuttle that are based on Parsons’ very own, decades-old innovations.
For his accomplishments, a large crater on the far side of the Moon was named in Parsons' honor, and each and every year, on Halloween no less, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory holds an open-house memorial, replete with mannequins of Jack Parsons and his early JPL cohorts known as "Nativity Day."
And, within the aerospace community, there is a longstanding joke that JPL actually stands for "Jack Parsons Laboratory" or "Jack Parsons Lives."
In fact, Parsons, who was so revered and honored by very senior figures within the U.S. space-program, was an admitted occultist, a follower of Aleister Crowley, and someone who topped even Crowley himself by allegedly engaging in bestiality with the family dog and sexual relations with his own mother, perhaps at the same time, no less.
And, before each rocket test, Parsons would undertake a ritual to try and invoke the Greek god, Pan.
Much of Parsons’ – and the JPL’s – initial rocket research in this period was undertaken at the appropriately-named Devil’s Gate Dam in Los Angeles.
Interestingly, the JPL was itself established at this very locale in 1930 by the California Institute of Technology.
The dam had been constructed a decade earlier by engineers from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and took its title from Devil’s Gate Gorge, a rocky out-cropping that eerily resembles a demonic face.
Well, this past weekend I spent a day hanging out with good mate Greg Bishop, and we took a drive out to the infamous locale, and where I took the pictures you can see right here.
The three pictures above are self-explanatory. But if you're wondering what that large, sprawling installation is on the final photo, it's the JPL itself, taken from the top of Devil's Gate Dam.