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East Coast Tour Leads Godspeed Back Home

A team from NASA traveled with the Godspeed Sail to six east coast ports this summer with a specially-designed interactive exhibit highlighting the connections between the adventurous men and women who settled in Virginia almost 400 years ago and NASA's plans to explore space and establish a presence on other worlds.

NASA's exhibit gave an estimated 190,000 visitors the chance to make a personalized "space postcard," take photographs as an astronaut or settler and win prizes in a NASA trivia game.

The Godspeed -- an 88-foot replica of the ship that brought the first English colonists to America -- acted as a floating museum, educating more than 456,000 visitors in six cities about exploration of the past. NASA was along for the ride to give a glimpse of the future of exploration. After 80 days of traveling up the east coast and a quick stop in Yorktown, Va., for the 225th anniversary of Cornwallis' surrender to George Washington, the Godspeed made its way home to the Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg, Va.

"It is rare for our outreach team to have the opportunity to be a part of a national tour like the Godspeed Sail," said Meghan Guethe, exhibit specialist with Tessada & Associates, Inc., at NASA Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Va. "We were there to tell the exploration story for all of NASA and had some truly fantastic staffers coming together from different centers. Watching that mix of talented engineers and researchers talking to the public made me see how passionate NASA employees are about their work."

Astronaut Christopher Cassidy and former astronauts Roger Crouch and Franklin Chang-Diaz made appearances in opening ceremonies in Alexandria, Va., Baltimore, Md., New York and Boston. Along with NASA educators, they each shared the spirit of exploration at these ceremonies and in local science and children's museums.

"The most exciting aspect of being a partner with Jamestown 2007 is the opportunity to get young people interested in exploration past and present," said Ivelisse Gilman, informal education manager at NASA Langley. "By drawing parallels between the exploration of 1607 and NASA's Vision for Space Exploration, our nation's future explorers can understand that challenges that the Jamestown settlers faced were similar to those that we face today."

Four themes were used to connect exploration of the past with NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. The road to space 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. These themes were interwoven throughout the NASA exhibit and presentations.

"The technology has changed, but the spirit at the heart of exploration is still alive and strong today as we make plans to go to the moon, Mars and beyond," added Gilman. "Exploration also gives us an opportunity for adventure and excitement as we meet new challenges."

The Godspeed Sail was the kick-off event for this 18-month commemoration recognizing the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in the United States. The six port cities included Alexandria, Va., Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., New York, Boston and Newport, R.I.

"I think the most exciting part of public outreach is when you know you've made a personal connection and can improve someone's understanding of NASA and its programs," said Guethe. "Having NASA employees take the time out to educate the public shows just how dedicated they are to moving science and exploration forward, and I think the public came away with that."

NASA partnered with Jamestown 2007 to promote exploration -- past and present -- in a number of signature events, including Jamestown Live!, a Web cast involving teachers and students from around the country; African-American Imprint on America; Virginia Native American Cultural Activities and the premier signature event, America's Anniversary Weekend, which will be May 11-13, 2007.

Lindsay Crouch
NASA Langley Research Center