The Man From Pasadena Who Strode The Globes
By Lionel Rolfe
Thirty-five years ago in Pasadena I met a young man at JPL from where a device was rocketed to Jupiter. The Voyager was a VW-sized vehicle powered by nuclear fuel, with solar panels and broadcast antennas. Guard Hall was the “Ops Chief” for the Voyager spacecraft. Launched in 1977, the Voyager craft acquired images & scientific data from encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their moons. He was involved in another related mission, the earlier one to Mars.
Guard Hall—his name apparently came from a military childhood—believed very much in the idea of life on Jupiter’s largest satellite Titan, and on Mars. He lived a wonderfully scientific life, more mystical than it should have been. He may have been the most mystical around JPL, he says. His job there was to command the Space Flights Operation Facility in the bottom rung of a five-story computer building. Hall, born in 1948, studied psychology, computers and space stations.
When Guard’s large figure strolled into the side electric door, he would lean over the console on a keyboard and push the buttons that controlled Voyager. He also remembers going through big encounters with tough tests—including hardware and even a fire.
“We proved we were operational and had our shit together,” he told me.
In the book “35 Minutes to Mars,” author R.M. Decker wrote that Hall had originally discussed a face on Mars which had particularly attracted the interests of Dr. James Hurtak, an author of mystical and cosmetic nostrums. A friend of Hall’s, Marijke, was illustrating Hurtak’s most recent book. She had discussed with Hall the giant face peering out into space from the planet’s surface.
A mystic and planet futurist, Hurtak was a major figure, especially in the New Age. Guard Hall was the second JPL scientist who found the head on “film”—Hall specifically found negative 35A72. To him, it was of a symmetrically formed head, but other more skeptical scientists complained the image was just a combination of light and dark.
I spent a couple of different places with Hall. I climbed the five stories of the JPL building and also spent time at his nearby wooded house that had tons of pot around. I always left his house with tons of dope and thought about the absurdity of it all. It was not an accident that Guard Hall loved pot and also creating nuclear-driven spaceships. The combination seemed to work.
I remember running up and down the floors of the command center filled with ancient IBM computers that dated back to the earliest days of the medium. He immediately began working on setting up the computers, making the plan the largest network of its kind. It was old equipment—rows and rows of giant blue boxes adorned with giant rows of flashing red marine light. They were all IBM 360s, over a decade old when he started putting them in place in the early ‘70s.
He said it was all equipment out of the dark ages of computers.
When Guard first met his friend, her name was Marijke Posthuma When she married him she became Marijke Hall. After she divorced Hall, she settled into an artistic personage known as Marijke Hoger.
She was known for painting the old Aquarius theater in Los Angeles as well as the frescoes on the Beatles’ old Apple Building in London. As I said, she was illustrating Hurtak’s “The Book of Knowledge” when they met.
He admits that his wife increased his mystical sense, making him “the only cultist on the lab.” He said he liked being happy that a mystic was at the hub of “man’s last and scientific achievement of the 20th century.”
When I last talked to his ex-wife Marijke, she pointed out she hadn’t been married to him for 24 years. She gave me his phone, which no longer worked. I tried it several times. Her new husband said that Guard just seemed to have disappeared without explanation—and he said he had no good rumors about his New Age background.
Through a back door, I met a fellow who has a job at NASA not unlike Guard’s old post. He is a Bulgarian by birth and didn’t want to say anything more except to laugh about Guard and say nothing about him when specifically questioned.
Neither any of the authorities at JPL knew anything about him. I talked with DC Agle who ran the agency’s directory of personnel. At first he asked me serious questioning about what I wanted to write about him—but after I answered these questions, it took me several notes to get him to write back sayings,“Guard Hall is not in our directory so we are unable to provide info. Thank you for your interest in NASA/JPL.”
As far as the world can tell, Guard Hall was no longer among the living. Or maybe the whole story was even more complex than that. The story is as mysterious as a black hole deep in outer space.
Lionel Rolfe has written 10 books, of which the latest, “The Fat Man Returns: The Elusive Hunt for California Bohemia and Other Matters,” is available in paper and Kindle at Amazon.