Date: 15 Nov 1936
In the fall of 1936, a group of enterprising young men in Pasadena, Calif., decided to risk their reputations and give engineering substance to rocket fantasy.
The "rocket boys" were an unusual bunch. Frank Malina was studying aerodynamics at Caltech's Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory. Jack Parsons was a self-taught chemist, and Ed Forman was an excellent mechanic. They scraped together cheap engine parts, and on 31 Oct. 1936, drove to an isolated area called the Arroyo Seco at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Four times that day they tried to test fire their small rocket motor. On the last attempt, they accidentally set fire to their oxygen line, which whipped around shooting fire! These were the first rocket experiments in the history of JPL. They tried again on 15 Nov. 1936, and their experiment finally worked.
Seated left to right: Rudolph Schott, Apollo Milton Olin Smith, Frank Malina (white shirt, dark pants), Ed Forman and Jack Parsons (right, foreground).