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Jason S. Sharp
Headquarters, Washington

June 18, 2008
RELEASE : 08-152
Smithsonian's Folklife Festival Celebrates NASA's 50 Years
WASHINGTON -- Moon buggies, stardust and space food are a few of the things visitors will learn about at the "NASA: 50 Years and Beyond" program during this summer's Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The program will showcase the role men and women of NASA have played in broadening the horizons of American science and culture, and the role they will continue to play in shaping the future through exploration and stirring the public imagination.

The festival will be held outdoors on the National Mall between 7th and 14th streets from Wednesday, June 25, through Sunday, June 29, and Wednesday, July 2, through Sunday, July 6. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EDT each day, with special 6 p.m. evening events that include concerts and dance parties. The festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

"The Folklife Festival will be a unique way for more than a million people to learn more about the history and heritage of our nation's exploration of space and cutting-edge aeronautics research," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. "With this festival, NASA celebrates its 50th anniversary, and in the forty-two years of the annual Folklife Festival, NASA is only the second federal agency invited to participate. NASA is in the inspiration business, and my hope is that visitors to our nation's capital will take the opportunity to learn more about our scientific discoveries of Earth and space, and the future of exploration with our talented engineers, scientists and astronauts."

Through hands-on educational activities, demonstrations, narrative sessions and exhibits, the program will highlight the skills and specialized knowledge that are uniquely NASA. About 200 NASA astronomers, astronauts, astrophysicists, educators, engineers and other experts will engage with visitors to represent a cross-section of NASA's 80,000 employees, contractors and grantees. The popular, Web-based "NASA Edge" podcast, as well as NASA TV will be on hand to report from the festival and conduct live interviews with participants.

The festival program will illustrate the geographic and occupational diversity of NASA's 10 field centers and inform visitors of the agency's many past, present and future projects. The topics of space science, Earth science, aeronautics, human spaceflight and future projects will be represented at the festival. Space science participants will be on hand to discuss the collection and analysis of interstellar dust, robotic missions to Mars and planetary exploration. Earth science participants will share recent findings about climate change, weather patterns and satellite imagery.

Since NASA's inception, the agency's employees have conducted cutting-edge research in traditional aeronautical disciplines and new, emerging fields to support future air and space vehicles. At the festival, aeronautics engineers and technicians will share with visitors the work they are doing on wind tunnel testing and improving air traffic control.

NASA's most visible mission is human spaceflight. Both current and former astronauts will share their adventures and experience with festival visitors. Also on hand will be NASA engineers and scientists who are building new spaceships that will enable astronauts to return to the moon by 2020.

Society often benefits from the technological advances of NASA. While, contrary to popular belief, Tang and Velcro are not NASA inventions, visitors will learn that many other commercial products and services in the fields of health, medicine, industry and consumer goods came from NASA-derived technologies.

Society also has its imaginations stirred by the exploration of space. Countless painters, sculptors, poets, writers, filmmakers and musicians have used NASA's work as the basis for their art. Several of these people who have documented or interpreted NASA's missions through their art will demonstrate their work at the festival.

Younger festival visitors can participate in a variety of hands-on activities that will illustrate the many different facets of NASA. Using their "Mission Guide" activities booklet, children can try such activities as comparing satellite images and studying the impact of comets. After completing the tasks and determining if they have "the right stuff," kids will earn a reward.

Visitors to the festival also will have the opportunity to leave record their memories of and thoughts about NASA, including where they were during important NASA moments.

Daily discussions on creating menus for space, packaging food for space, and planning for long term missions beyond Earth will showcase the design of nutritious and appetizing meals for space travelers. NASA staff also will discuss the challenges and rewards that come with feeding a multicultural crew on the International Space Station.

Participants from all areas of the program, as well as NASA alumni and other special guests, will share stories, traditions and memories of 50 years of NASA on the program's two narrative stages, Exploration and Galaxy.

During the evenings of the festival's first week, the National Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium will feature films relating to NASA, including "Apollo 13," "In the Shadow of the Moon" and "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Also on the National Mall, the National Air and Space Museum's exhibition "Space: A Journey to Our Future" opened June 14. This exhibition highlights current achievements in space exploration -- satellites, space telescopes, people living in space -- and provides a glimpse into future human space travel.

The 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will feature three programs. In addition to "NASA: 50 Years and Beyond," the other programs are "Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon" and "Texas: A Celebration of Music, Food and Wine."

The Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors people from across the United States and around the world. With about 1 million visitors each year, the festival unites presenters and performers in the nation's capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. For more information on the Folklife Festival, visit:


For more information on NASA and its programs, visit:

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