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2 May 2001
For Immediate Release

"Space Academy" Coming to Applied Physics Lab

Maryland Students Get a Sneak Peek at NASA's New Comet Mission

You don't often get to see the inner workings of a space mission or meet a member of Congress, but 100 Maryland middle school students will do both on Tuesday, May 8, when they visit The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel for Comcast/Discovery Space Academy: Mission CONTOUR.

The educational program — based on the CONTOUR (Comet Nucleus Tour) mission — will give students from Prince George's and Montgomery counties an exclusive look at NASA's latest comet explorer.

Sponsored by Comcast Cable, the Discovery Channel and APL, the event starts at 9:30 a.m. at APL's Kossiakoff Center. After a greeting from Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), the visitors will hear about CONTOUR and take part in a student press conference with mission project manager Mary Chiu, system engineer Edward Reynolds and principal investigator Joseph Veverka. Veverka, the mission's head scientist, will participate via videoconference from his home base at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

After learning how to make a comet using dry ice, the students will eat lunch with CONTOUR scientists and engineers at the Kossiakoff Center, then pull on specially designed clean-room suits and tour APL's space facilities. Lab staffers will walk the students through "Exploration Stations" that include spacecraft test and design rooms, space environment demonstrations, a satellite communications facility and a wiring model of the actual CONTOUR spacecraft.

Gearing up for the event, the students have been learning for the past month about CONTOUR, its target comets (Encke and Schwassmann-Wachmann 3), and careers in space through classroom activities developed by the Discovery Channel.

The Applied Physics Lab designed and is building CONTOUR, preparing the robot craft for a July 2002 launch. CONTOUR will fly past at least two comets, taking the sharpest pictures ever of a comet nucleus and collecting data on these dynamic "dirty snowballs" that sail through our solar system. APL also manages the CONTOUR program (, part of NASA's innovative Discovery class of low-cost, scientifically focused planetary missions.

The event is open to the media and offers a range of photo, video and interview opportunities. The Applied Physics Laboratory is located on Johns Hopkins Road, 1/2 mile west of U.S. Route 29 in Laurel, Md.

The Applied Physics Laboratory 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.

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 EspaƱol. The unit also markets and distributes BBC America.

Media Contacts:
Michael Buckley
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-7536
Sandy Steeves (Nevins & Associates)