Milstar (Military Strategic and Tactical Relay) Team and Neil A. Armstrong are Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Trophy Winners

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Thursday, March 4, 2004 - 8:00am

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The National Air and Space Museum Trophy, the museum's highest honor, has been awarded this year to the team responsible for the military communications satellite system Milstar, and to Neil A. Armstrong. The Milstar team is honored in the category of Current Achievement and Armstrong in the category of Lifetime Achievement.
The 2004 winners received their awards at a private ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum building in Washington on March 3.

Established in 1985, the award recognizes outstanding achievement in scientific or technological endeavors relating to air and space technology and exploration. As in past years, trophy winners received a miniature version of "The Web of Space," a sculpture by artist John Safer.

The National Air and Space Museum Trophy was not awarded last year as the museum prepared for the opening of its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

For more information on the National Air and Space Museum Trophy and other awards in the Museum's collections, see

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly near Washington Dulles International Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (Closed December 25.). Admission is free but there is a $12 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Shuttle bus service runs between the facilities with a roundtrip ticket costing $7 (group discounts are available).

The 2004 National Air and Space Museum Trophy event was made possible through the generous support of Lockheed Martin Corp.

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Milstar Team (consisting of the USAF MILSATCOM Program Team and the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Contract Team)

The Milstar (Military Strategic and Tactical Relay) Team is honored for its work in designing, developing, launching, and operating the Department of Defense's Milstar communications satellite system.

Milstar, consisting of five satellites in geosynchronous orbit, has three distinguishing features: it makes possible communications over nearly all the Earth's surface; it affords those communications the highest level of security protection and reliability; and it is designed to operate through extreme natural or wartime conditions.

With these achievements, Milstar offers, for the first time, any military personnel--from the President as Commander in Chief to a soldier in a remote combat theater--the ability to communicate quickly and securely.  Through Milstar, the military now possesses an unprecedented level of control to convey instructions and to coordinate rapidly with tactical and strategic forces.  It is a unique system, essential to the 's security.

Milstar has been crucial to land, air, and sea operations for the campaign in Iraq, enabling commanders to receive intelligence quickly and to direct their resources--such as cruise missiles, bombers, and special forces--with maximum effectiveness. 

The Milstar system was conceived initially to provide communications for command and control during the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear conflict. As the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, program leaders redesigned the system to support a wide range of military operations.  In all, more than 20 years were required for research, development, and full deployment.

The Milstar team has pushed the state of the art in communications in a number of important ways, including: the development of onboard satellite processing and switching of signals; the use of satellite cross-link antennas that allow communications to pass from satellite to satellite rather than through ground stations; and by creating extremely high frequency and frequency hopping technologies.  Incorporating these developments, the Milstar mission resulted in the most complex communications satellites ever built and requires the highest level of managerial and technological skill and commitment.

Neil A. Armstrong

 Neil Alden Armstrong is honored for an extraordinary life's dedication to aerospace.

Serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict, Armstrong flew 78 combat missions. Later he became a civilian research pilot for the government, flying more than 200 different models of aircraft. He was one of a select group assigned to the X-15 rocketplane, the fastest and highest flying manned winged vehicle until the Space Shuttle. In 1962 he was chosen for NASA's second astronaut class.

On March 16, 1966, Armstrong flew his first space mission as commander of Gemini VIII with David Scott. He piloted his Gemini to the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit, smoothly locking on to an Agena target vehicle. The joined craft soon began to pitch and roll wildly, threatening the lives of the astronauts. Armstrong was able to separate from the Agena and used retrorockets to regain control of his craft, prompting NASA's first emergency spaceflight landing.

Three years later, Armstrong returned to space as commander of Apollo 11, the first attempt to put humans on another celestial surface. On July 20, 1969, facing a series of computer warnings, a rapidly approaching crater, and less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining, he safely landed the lunar module "Eagle" on the Moon. At 10:56 P.M. EDT, Neil Armstrong placed the first footprint in lunar dust and defined the moment: "one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong was joined by Buzz Aldrin for two and one-half hours of experiments, photography, and collection of samples. After returning to "Eagle," Armstrong initiated the first lunar liftoff and soon he and Aldrin were reunited with command module pilot Michael Collins and heading home.

Armstrong next served NASA as a deputy associate administrator in Washington, managing overall agency research and technology work involving aeronautics.

In 1971, he became an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati and enjoyed the challenge of teaching for nearly a decade.  Later Armstrong served as chairman of computing technologies for Aviation, Inc., in Charlottesville, Va., and then became chairman of the board of AIL Systems, Inc., an electronics systems company in Deer Park, N.Y.

No matter the venue, Neil Armstrong has never faltered in advancing the cause of exploration through flight. But recently he also paused to reflect. "Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go. So I'm very thankful that we got to see that and be part of it."