Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MESSENGER at the National Air and Space Museum

As part of the Venus 2 flyby activities a 1:5 scale model of the MESSENGER spacecraft built by carpenters at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., was hung in the Mercury exhibit in the Exploring the Planets Gallery of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C.

Artisans Ron Prietz, Sr., Bill Kulp, and Bob Harter, from APL's Technical Services Department-along with supervisor Ted Hartka-were there to see their handiwork displayed. Several members of the MESSENGER science and engineering teams were also in attendance, including Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, from the Carnegie Institution of
Washington, and Project Scientist Ralph McNutt, Mission Operations Manager Andy Calloway, and Missions Systems Engineer Eric Finnegan, all from APL.

NASM's Exploring the Planets Gallery was opened in 1979 to highlight the history and achievements of planetary exploration, both by Earth-based observations and by spacecraft. This upgrade to the Mercury exhibit is part of MESSENGER's Education and
Public Outreach effort and is being led by Tom Watters, a senior scientist at NASM and a MESSENGER Participating Scientist. MESSENGER Co-Investigator Mark Robinson, at Arizona State University, made available for the exhibit scores of Mercury
photographs from Mariner 10.

"This is a work in progress, but especially if you have not visited the museum for a while, it is worth a stop if you are in Washington," says McNutt. "As the MESSENGER mission progresses, the exhibit will be upgraded to reflect the mission and new Mercury results; so watch this space."

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