NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center and its visitor center, StenniSphere, were recognized for outstanding service to the community at the 2008 Annual Hancock County Awards Gala on Aug. 26.
Almost 600 people attended a "Salute to Progress" awards ceremony that recognized NASA for 50 years of space exploration and honored the Stennis Space Center with the Award of Excellence.
StenniSphere also was cited as Hancock County Tourism Business of the Year during the ceremony.
The annual awards gala is sponsored by the Hancock County Chamber, Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission and the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau.
"These awards are a true honor for all of us at Stennis Space Center," center Director Bob Cabana said. "For 45 years, we have been pleased to call Hancock County home and have been proud to serve as a member of the community. We deeply appreciate the recognition, and everyone involved with NASA looks forward to a continued – and fruitful – partnership with the county and with all our fellow neighbors along the Mississippi Gulf Coast."
The awards come as NASA celebrates a history of space exploration that dates back to the agency's launch in October 1958. Soon after it was established, NASA took up President John F. Kennedy's challenge to land humans on the moon, achieving that goal in July 1969 with the historic Apollo 11 mission.
Stennis Space Center played a key role in the Apollo Program, testing all the rocket engines used for the manned flights. The facility subsequently assumed responsibility for testing every space shuttle main engine as well. With the Space Shuttle Program set to end in 2010, Stennis is preparing to test the engines that will be used in NASA's Constellation Program, in which humans will go back to the moon and possibly beyond.
In doing so, Stennis engineers will build on a record of unblemished success. In more than 40 years of rocket engine testing, not a single launch has failed or been aborted due to malfunction of a Stennis-tested engine.
Visitors to Stennis are able to explore the facility's ongoing role in the space program through StenniSphere and its weekly site tours. During a narrated, 25-minute bus tour, participants enjoy an up-close view of the massive test stands at Stennis and often experience the shake, rattle and roar of a rocket engine as it is being tested.
Following the bus tour, visitors are able to explore 14,000 square feet of informative displays and exhibits, including the Apollo 4 Command Module, a space shuttle cockpit and a full-scale mock-up of an International Space Station habitation and laboratory module. Visitors can view a moon rock collected by the Apollo 15 crew, "test" a space shuttle main engine at the Test Control Center display and browse the Space Odyssey Gift Shop.
Tours of Stennis Space Center and the visitor's center begin at the Launch Pad, adjacent to the Hancock County Welcome Center located at Interstate 10 Exit 2. StenniSphere is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The last tour bus leaves the Launch Pad at 2 p.m. Photo IDs are required for visitors 18 or older.
For information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/.
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