NASA is preparing to be part of President Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities that are slated to occur from Jan. 18–21. Several events are planned to take place during this period, including an open house of NASA Headquarters, a star party, and a NASA Social.
The inauguration will provide the public with an opportunity to meet astronauts and members of the space agency’s Mars Science Laboratory team, who is responsible for the Curiosity rover currently trundling across the surface of the Red Planet.
During Obama’s first inaugural activities, NASA was the final participant—even falling behind the “Lawn Rangers,” a precision lawn mower drill team. According to the schedule of events, it appears that the space agency has been given higher billing at the first inaugural parade.
The breakdown of the events that are scheduled to take place during this period are as follows:
Jan. 18: NASA Headquarters at 300 E St. SW in Washington will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. Two panel discussions will be held that the public can participate in at the James Webb Auditorium. These will take place at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and will detail NASA’s plans for future human space missions, the importance of developing new and advanced technologies, what science is being conducted on the International Space Station, and NASA’s future plans for Mars exploration. For those planning to attend, you must enter through the Headquarters’ West Lobby, which is located near the intersection of 4th and E streets SW.
Jan. 19: NASA will participate with other federal agencies as part of the National Day of Service on the National Mall in Washington D.C. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public will also have the chance to meet astronauts and to directly interact with NASA representatives to learn more about what the space agency is doing. Guests that would like to visit NASA’s tent can find it on the Mall between 14th St. and the 12th St. expressway underpass, in the Education Section. That evening the Star Party will be held at the Arlington Planetarium in Arlington, Va., from 5:30–9:30 p.m. Telescopes will be made available for the public to star gaze and professional astronomers, NASA astronauts, and other experts will be on hand to inform the public more about what they are seeing. The Star Party is free and open to the public, and will be held at the David M. Brown Planetarium, located at 1426 North Quincy Street, Arlington (next to Washington Lee High School). The planetarium is named for one of the astronauts that died on space shuttle Columbia’s last mission, STS-107.
Jan. 21: Two full-sized models of NASA’s current flagship manned and unmanned missions will appear during the Inaugural Parade—the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity and the Orion Spacecraft (an unmanned test flight slated for September 2014). Escorting Curiosity will be members of the rover’s team, who have traveled from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory located in Pasadena, Calif. Several astronauts will also be participating in the parade. Leland Melvin, NASA’s associate administrator for Education, and John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for Science, both former astronauts, as well as Alvin Drew, Serena Aunon, Kate Rubins, Mike Massimino, Lee Morin, and Kjell Lindgren are scheduled to be a part of the parade.
For the space agency, participating in the inaugural festivities is all about letting the public that funds their efforts know more about what NASA is doing on their behalf.
“We are excited that NASA’s missions and projects will be represented throughout the inauguration weekend. This is America’s space program and everyone should be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and we want them to be excited about the ambitious program we have ahead—that’s what will be reflected in our presentations this historic weekend,” said NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications Robert Jacobs.