Space center tours resume for public

Goddard permits visitors after nearly 3-year ban


Tours of the Hubble Space Telescope control center, model rocket launches, talks by NASA experts and explanations of solar flares will be on tap today when the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt opens to the public for the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Visitors will see Hubble's dimly lit control center, where scientists control the cameras used to capture the images of galaxies that enliven classroom walls around the country.

The tour stops will include views of the 90-foot-high "clean room," with its dust-free environment for testing Hubble equipment; a life-size model of the Columbia space shuttle; the cumbersome space gloves worn by astronauts during Hubble servicing missions and a centrifuge where the durability of satellites is tested.

Tours are regularly conducted at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and at other National Aeronautics and Space Administration facilities, said Rani Chohan, a Goddard spokeswoman.

Goddard staff members say they consider the tours - once a mainstay at the flight center -a way of showing off their work to family, friends and the public. Goddard employs 10,000 scientists, engineers and support staff.

"What you find is the general public seems to be pretty well informed," said George Barbehenn, a veteran of past tours and the operations manager for the Hubble Space Telescope at Goddard.

Featured speakers will include astronaut and astronomer Ron Parise; James Garvin, who oversees Mars missions at NASA headquarters; and Marshall Shepherd, an expert on NASA's use of satellites to track climate and weather patterns.

About 60 other NASA scientists and engineers will be available to answer questions and give talks. There also will be face painting, a puppet show, robotic demonstrations, live music and concessions.

About 50,000 people are expected. The center is about a mile east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on Greenbelt Road. Tours are scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. Buses will shuttle visitors from area parking lots along Greenbelt Road.

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