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For Immediate Release

September 11, 2012

Media Contact:

Gina Ellrich
(443) 778-7796

APL and Robinson Nature Center Offer Space Science Lectures

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Robinson Nature Center are teaming up for a joint lecture series called "Beyond Earth." APL scientists will share details of and discuss findings from four Laboratory space missions to different parts of the solar system.

Geared for teens and adults, the lectures are hosted by Robinson Nature Center and will include an opportunity to meet the APL speakers and enjoy refreshments after the presentation. The series begins Sept. 20, and all lectures will be held from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Nature Center. Additional lecture sponsors are the Howard Astronomy League and Celestial Searchers.

"For more than half a century, APL has provided leadership and innovation in space science and engineering — building 68 spacecraft and nearly 200 space instruments — and we are eager to share our knowledge with the community," says APL Director Ralph Semmel. "APL is pleased to have several of our scientists partner with Robinson Nature Center for this inaugural lecture series."

Lecture topics include:

Sept. 20, 2012: "MESSENGER's Mission to Mercury"
This lecture will highlight the APL-built MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry and Ranging), which in March 2011 became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Learning about Mercury and the forces that shaped it has helped scientists better understand the solar system and the evolution of the inner planets.

Oct. 18, 2012: "The Recent Launch of Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP)"
This lecture will cover the APL-built twin spacecraft that were launched Aug. 30, 2012, to study how Earth's radiation belts respond to changes in solar activity. For the next two years, the durable probes will gather data to better understand the impact of the radiation belts — one of harshest environments in near-Earth space — on technology and people.

Nov. 15, 2012: "How CRISM Found Water on Mars"
Attendees will hear about APL's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), an advanced instrument flying aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. CRISM has been scanning the surface of Mars since 2006 and has played a key role in the search for water on Mars, understanding the planet's geology and perhaps paving the way for human explorers.

Dec. 13, 2012: "TIMED Mission Exploring Earth's Atmosphere"
This lecture will delve into what scientists are learning from space about the effects of both human and solar activity on Earth's environment. The TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) spacecraft, now in its second decade in orbit around Earth, has collected more data on the upper atmosphere than any other spacecraft.

The series also includes two special exhibits: "The RBSP Mission," on loan from APL; and "Visions of the Universe, 400 Years of Discovery," on loan from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

The James & Anne Robinson Nature Center has interactive and multisensory exhibits for all ages, a trail system with views of the Middle Patuxent River and a digital planetarium and dome-style theater — the "NatureSphere." The center connects people to nature and the outdoors through programming focused on natural and cultural history, as well as astronomy and space science. For more information on the lecture series or its cost, contact the Nature Center at 410-313-0400 or visit

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit