NASA, intently focused on leading the next phase of American exploration, is preparing to honor those who led one of the first phases 400 years ago.
NASA will fly a nearly 400-year-old artifact unearthed at the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas into space aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis scheduled for launch in March. Upon completion of the flight, the artifact -- a lead cargo tag reading "Yames Towne" -- will have logged more than four million miles over four centuries traveling from England to Jamestown, then to and back from the International Space Station.
This lead cargo tag -- which readsImage to right: This lead cargo tag -- which reads "Yames Towne" -- is believed to have been discarded from a shipping crate or trunk arriving at Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, from England in about 1611. NASA will fly this artifact and two sets of Jamestown commemorative coins aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in March 2007. Credit: NASA
Two sets of Jamestown commemorative coins, recently issued by the U.S. Mint, will also fly aboard Atlantis.
Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra presented the artifact and coins to NASA Langley Research Center Director Lesa Roe at AeroSpace Day in Richmond Wednesday.
"This exploratory shuttle flight connects our adventurous past with the innovation and continued intellectual curiosity that guides our future as we commemorate America's 400th," Secretary Chopra said. "We embrace that future by contemplating Jamestown's pivotal role as the place where our nation's defining characteristics -- democracy, free enterprise, cultural diversity and the spirit of exploration -- took root."
The tag, found at the bottom of a well during an archeological dig at the site of James Fort on Jamestown Island, is most likely a discarded shipping tag from a crate or a trunk arriving from England around 1611. It indicates the strengthening of trade patterns during the colony's early days.