To honor early American explorers, NASA will fly into space four coins and a nearly 400-year-old artifact from historic Jamestown. The items will be aboard space shuttle Atlantis during mission STS-117, targeted for launch in March.
The artifact, a metal cargo tag reading "Yames Towne," was unearthed at Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas in 1607. Upon completion of the flight, it will have logged more than 4 million miles during four centuries, traveling from England to Jamestown and round trip to the International Space Station. Two sets of Jamestown commemorative coins, authorized by Congress and recently issued by the U.S. Mint, also will 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 anniversary," Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine 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, most likely is a discarded shipping tag from a crate or a trunk arriving from England around 1611.
"This artifact clearly marks Jamestown as a destination -- our nation's first 'address.' It demonstrates the development of trade patterns crucial to the survival of the colony," said William M. Kelso, director of archaeology at the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Kelso leads the Jamestown Rediscovery Project that has unearthed more than 1 million artifacts at the site of the first permanent English settlement in America.
"NASA is proud to be entrusted with this piece of exploration history and to participate in the commemoration of America's 400th anniversary, highlighting the next phase of America's exploration vision," said Roe. "Remembering the spirit of adventure that led to the establishment of Jamestown is appropriate as this country works toward establishing a permanent outpost on another planetary body."
Each commemorative coin set contains a $5 gold piece and a silver dollar with visual references to Jamestown's legacies. When returned from space, NASA will present one set to Governor Kaine for display at Jamestown Settlement, a 17th century living history museum. The second set will be displayed at the National Park Service's Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center.
NASA will return the shipping tag to Historic Jamestowne for display in its Archaearium, a new archaeological museum showcasing items unearthed during the past 13 years in excavations that include the long-lost remains of James Fort. For centuries, the fort was believed to have eroded into the James River.
NASAs program to return to the moon then venture to Mars and beyond continues the legacy of exploration and discovery initiated 400 years ago by America's earliest explorers. To learn more about NASA's long-term exploration goals, visit:
For more information about the commemoration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary, visit:
For more information about Historic Jamestowne, visit:
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