Media Invited to NASA Ribbon Cutting of New Astrobiology Exhibit

GREENBELT, Md., Oct. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Media are invited to the debut of a new Visitor Center exhibit at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on Tuesday, Oct. 29. The exhibit describes the search for the origins of life here on Earth, elsewhere in the solar system and throughout the universe.

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A ribbon-cutting event for NASA officials, special guests and media begins at 2 p.m. EDT at the Goddard Visitor Center, with scientists who participated in creating the exhibit on hand.

Wednesday's event marks another step in an ongoing transformation of the Goddard Visitor Center. The 10-year-old Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) developed the exhibit to showcase the center's study of pre-biotic organic compounds and potentially habitable environments throughout space and time.

"Life is not simply a late event," said Michael Mumma, GCA principal investigator. "It depends on everything, right back to the Big Bang. The evolution leading to life in the universe really is a story that extends for 14 billion years."

The Astrobiology Walk comprises 10 stations arranged in an arc in the Visitor Center's outdoor Rocket Garden. Panels at each station explain scientific principles and describe Goddard's contribution to that science. Iconic 3-D tactile models illustrate each station's theme, such as the high-definition topographical globe of Mars and the peanut-shaped nucleus of comet Hartley 2. The exhibit also features stromatolite rocks, formed by blue-green algae, and a banded ironstone formation. These rocks hail from the time of oxygen's first appearance in Earth's atmosphere around 2.4 billion years ago.

C&G Partners of New York City designed the installation and Exhibitology of Paterson, N.J., fabricated and installed the displays. These firms transformed concepts produced by GCA into museum-quality designs.

"The technology that went into this is tremendous," said GCA education and public outreach lead Cynthia Cheung. "They've tested their limits in everything."

The Astrobiology Walk is designed for durability -- stainless steel columns support the weatherproof high-pressure laminate panels and automobile paint coats the touchable models.

As visitors progress through the exhibit they learn how the ingredients of life came together in the early universe and early solar system. Later stations describe the ongoing search for pre-biotic chemicals in comets and meteorites, and for habitable environments on Mars and on faraway extrasolar planets.

Information displayed in the exhibit will be regularly updated to reflect new developments in the rapidly developing field of astrobiology. The exhibit can also be expanded easily. Future stations may feature discoveries from the Mars rover Curiosity.

The Astrobiology Walk is part of an ongoing campaign by Buckingham and his staff to update and transform the Visitor Center, which first opened in 1976. In addition to the Astrobiology Walk, the Visitor Center has recently gained life-sized models of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the GROVER Greenland rover. Visitors can also see a full-size aluminum model of a hexagonal mirror segment from the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

The exhibit is already in place and is open to the public. The NASA Goddard Visitor Center is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

To learn more about the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, visit:
http://astrobiology.gsfc.nasa.gov

To learn more about the NASA Goddard Visitor's Center, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/visitor/home/index.html

SOURCE NASA



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