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NASA partners with Jamestown to celebrate exploration

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Thu May 10, 2007 6:01 pm
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Humans have done it almost since the dawn of time … set off on journeys into the unknown. Sometimes it’s to discover riches. Other times it’s to uncover knowledge.

The spirit of exploration is the focus of a unique partnership between NASA and the Jamestown 2007 National Commemoration Commission, marking the May 1607 establishment of the first permanent English settlement in North America.

The partnership highlights the connections between the adventurous men and women who settled in Virginia almost 400 years ago and NASA’s mission to explore space and establish a presence on other worlds.

NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration will take humans back to the moon, then onto Mars and destinations beyond. The road to discovery, much like the path to Jamestown, involves searching for water, accommodating human needs, developing new forms of transportation and establishing a settlement or space colony.

NASA and Anniversary Weekend

On Sunday, May 13, during Jamestown Anniversary Weekend, NASA will celebrate the spirit of exploration with a special message from space. During ceremonies at midday, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is scheduled to introduce three modern-day explorers to the crowd that’s expected to include President George Bush and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Technology will connect Jamestown to the International Space Station and astronaut Sunita Williams via satellite video downlink. She is a flight engineer and part of the Expedition 15 crew along with two Russian cosmonauts, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov.

Visitors to Jamestown, May 11-13, will also be able to check out an out-of-this-world, interactive NASA exhibit that illustrates what future explorers will face when they set off to uncover new worlds. NASA will have a presence in “Exploration Village” … part of Anniversary Park not far from the Jamestown Settlement. Anniversary Park has five “villages” set up during the weekend celebration. They include exploration, anniversary, democracy, heritage and festival.

History into Space

Later this year a little piece of Jamestown history will hitch a ride on the space shuttle Atlantis during mission STS-117, currently scheduled to launch no earlier than June 8.

A lead cargo tag, dating back to the early 1600s, is tucked inside a box in the shuttle’s middeck floor. The tag is the only thing found in more than a dozen years of archaeological digs at Jamestown Island that contains the word “Yamestowne” on it.

Two sets of Jamestown commemorative coins, recently issued by the U.S. Mint, will also fly aboard Atlantis.

When the coins and tag return from their four million mile journey they will be put on display in Jamestown.

The shipping tag will return to Historic Jamestowne to be placed in a new archaeological museum. One set of coins will be permanently displayed at Jamestown Settlement, a 17th century living history museum run by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The second set will be exhibited in the National Park Service’s Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center on Jamestown Island.

NASA’s 18-Month Partnership

This year’s events cap off an 18-month-long relationship between NASA and Jamestown. In 2006, traveling NASA exhibits and a lecture series were part of a six-port summer East Coast tour by the replica ship Godspeed.

In the fall of 2006, Jamestown Live!, an educational webcast, reached an estimated one million kindergarten through 12th grade students in schools across the country, with online presentations by astronauts, celebrities and educational leaders. NASA participants linked the challenges faced by Jamestown explorers to the adventures that lie ahead for space pioneers.

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