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17 November 2000
For Immediate Release

Applied Physics Lab Hosts Student Press Conference

Local Students Go Behind the Scenes of a Maryland-Based Space Mission

Did you know there's a virtually unexplored frontier just about 60 miles above the Earth? Comcast Cable and Discovery Networks are teaming with The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to offer more than 100 Maryland middle school students a chance to explore a NASA mission that will study one of the last frontiers in Earth's atmosphere.

On Wednesday, November 29, students from Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties will team for a behind-the-scenes look at a mission designed to study one of the least explored and understood regions of Earth's atmosphere during Comcast/Discovery Space Academy: Mission TIMED - an educational program based on the TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics) mission.

The event will be held at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., where the TIMED spacecraft was designed and built. Starting at 9:30 a.m. in APL's Kossiakoff Center, the students will receive a briefing on the mission - the first to conduct a global study of this atmospheric frontier - and participate in a student press conference with a panel of TIMED team members. Representing the mission will be: TIMED Program Executive Victoria Elsbernd (NASA Headquarters); Solar Terrestrial Probes Program Manager Gilberto Colón (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center); Mission System Engineer David Kusnierkiewicz (APL); Project Scientist Sam Yee (APL); Spacecraft Integration and Test Engineer Stanley Kozuch (APL); and SEE (Solar Extreme Ultraviolet Experiment) Instrument Specialist Gail Tate (University of Colorado, Boulder).

The students will have lunch with mission scientists and engineers at the Kossiakoff Center, and then put on special clean-room suits and tour APL's space facilities. Lab staff members will walk the students through educational stations that include the mission control center, spacecraft test and design rooms, and a satellite communications facility.

To prepare for this event, students have been learning about the TIMED mission, the portion of the atmosphere it will study, and about a variety of careers in space through a series of classroom activities developed by Discovery Networks.

TIMED is the initial mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes Program, part of NASA's initiative to lower mission costs and provide more frequent access to space to systematically study the sun-Earth system. TIMED will study the influences of the sun and humans on the mesosphere and lower thermosphere/ionosphere. This area serves as a gateway between Earth's environment and space. TIMED will focus on a portion of this atmospheric region located between 60-180 kilometers (approximately 40-110 miles) above the surface, and will study how energy is transferred into and out of this area, as well as its basic structure.

The TIMED mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is responsible for the design, construction, integration and testing of the spacecraft, and will maintain its operations after the spacecraft's launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in spring 2001. The event is open to the media.

The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is a not-for-profit laboratory and division of The Johns Hopkins University. APL conducts research and development primarily for national security and for nondefense projects of national and global significance. APL is located midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in Laurel, Md.

The third largest cable company in the U.S., Comcast Cable is a division of Comcast Corporation - a developer, manager and operator of broadband cable networks and provider of programming content.

Discovery Networks, U.S., a unit of Discovery Communications, Inc., owns and operates Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery People, Discovery Kids Channel, Discovery Science Channel, Discovery Wings Channel and Discovery en Espanol. The unit also markets and distributes BBC America.

Media contact:

JHU Applied Physics Laboratory:
Kristi Marren
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-6268
Sandy Steeves (Nevins & Associates)
Hunt Valley, MD 21031
Phone: 410-568-8806