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One of the Smithsonian Institution's most distinguished honors, the National Air and Space Museum Trophy, will be awarded to the team responsible for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission and American legend John Glenn. The NEAR team is honored in the category of Current Achievement and Glenn in the category of Lifetime Achievement.

This year's winners will receive their awards at a private ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington on Nov. 13.

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

The trophy awards ceremony is sponsored by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.



NEAR Mission Team

The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission team is honored for its efforts in building and operating the first spacecraft to both orbit and land on an asteroid. Originally called simply the NEAR mission, NASA renamed the spacecraft in 2000 to honor the late Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker, a planetary geologist who influenced decades of research on the role of asteroids and comets in shaping and modifying the planets.

The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft flew the first mission in the Discovery Program, a recent NASA initiative for small planetary missions with a maximum of a three-year development cycle and a cost capped at $150 million in FY 1992 dollars. The NEAR mission is managed for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. This mission clearly demonstrated that sophisticated, scientifically significant planetary missions could be carried out by small spacecraft designed, built and launched in a time period as short as three years. NEAR Shoemaker is therefore the first of a growing fleet of spacecraft carrying out a new wave of exploration throughout the solar system.

On Feb. 17, 1996, the NEAR spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a Delta-2 rocket. One year later it established a new record for the greatest distance from the sun for a solar-powered spacecraft. On June 27, 1997, the spacecraft flew within 753 miles (1,212 kilometers) of the asteroid Mathilde, providing the first detailed information about this type of asteroid. Following an aborted initial capture maneuver in late 1998, the NEAR spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid Eros on Feb. 14, 2000, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit such a small planetary body. A year of detailed measurements and complex orbital maneuvers followed, bringing the spacecraft to within 21 miles (35 kilometers) from the asteroid's center of mass, and even closer to the slowly rotating ends of this very irregularly shaped object. On Feb. 12, 2001, as a novel way to end this extraordinary mission, flight controllers successfully soft-landed the spacecraft--designed exclusively to be an orbiter--on the surface of Eros, becoming the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.



Sen. John Glenn

John Glenn is honored for a remarkable lifetime dedicated to military aviation, space exploration and service to his country.

A Marine pilot, Glenn flew 59 combat missions during World War II in F4U Corsairs off the Marshall Islands. During the Korean War, he saw combat 63 times in F9F Panthers. He then flew 27 missions in the F-86 Saberjet in exchange duty with the U.S. Air Force, downing three MiGs in the last days of the conflict.

On July 16, 1957, Major Glenn made the first coast-to-coast, non-stop supersonic flight, "Project Bullet," taking the Vought F8U Crusader from Southern California to Long Island in 3 hours, 23 minutes. Soon after he completed another rigorous test process and became the only Marine among America's seven original astronauts.

On Feb. 20, 1962, with the United States still trailing the Soviets in the Cold War's most sensational competition, John Glenn went far beyond America's two previous manned spaceflights, each a short jump over the west Atlantic lasting only minutes.

Glenn and his Friendship 7 spacecraft, boosted by a far more powerful and temperamental rocket, flew for almost five hours and circled Earth three times. He wrestled balky thrusters and faced possible incineration as Mission Control feared his heat shield and landing bag were loose. But throughout, his radio voice never wavered in its mix of cool professionalism and thrilled curiosity. John Glenn had become the first American familiar with space and his safe re-entry and splashdown brought celebrations on par with Lindbergh's landing in Paris.

As years passed and NASA resisted assigning Glenn another mission, he went off to a career first in business and then in politics, eventually representing Ohio in the United States Senate for almost a quarter century. Still, he always hoped for one more spaceflight.

On Oct. 29, 1998, payload specialist John Glenn lifted off aboard shuttle Discovery. At 77, he was the oldest person to experience zero gravity. During the nine days of STS-95, Glenn took part in satellite deployment and dozens of material science and medical experiments. As the main subject for studies of the aging process, he felt the almost constant presence of electrodes and needles. But Glenn also found delight in the view from orbit 300 nautical miles (568 kilometers) up--more than double that of his 1962 flight.

John Glenn continues to serve as a frequent spokesman for educating young people about space science.