A team of
scientists and engineers from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,
Huntsville, Ala.; TRW , and the Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory (SAO), Cambridge, Mass. has won one of the Smithsonian
National Air and Space Museum’s most prized awards, the 2000 Trophy
for Current Achievement.

The team was honored for successfully developing, producing,
launching and operating NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the world’s
most capable X-ray observatory.

Art Stephenson, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center,
accepted the award on behalf of the team at a formal awards ceremony
held Nov. 9 at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in
Washington, D.C.

“This award is a tribute to the vision, engineering talents and
dedication to mission success of every member of this extraordinary
Chandra team,” said Stephenson.

“From the dedicated scientists and engineers at NASA’s Marshall
Space Flight Center who managed the development of Chandra and
verified the exceptional accuracy of its mirrors, to the Smithsonian
science team that envisioned the astounding amount of knowledge that
could be gleaned from the X-ray heavens, to the TRW-led team of
contractors that made those dreams come true, the Chandra project is
truly a scientific and engineering triumph.”

The National Air and Space Museum Trophy was established in 1985.
It is presented annually to recognize past and present achievements
involving the management or execution of a scientific or technological
project, a distinguished career of service in air and space
technology, or a significant contribution in chronicling the history
of air and space technology.

The National Air and Space Museum awards two trophies each year,
one for Current Achievement and another for Lifetime Achievement. The
actual trophy, called “The Web of Space,” was created for the National
Air and Space Museum by John Safer of Washington, D.C. It will be
engraved with the names of the Chandra team and remain on permanent
display at the Air and Space Museum.

Stephenson will receive a miniature replica of the trophy for
display at the Marshall Center.

Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in July 1999, Chandra
is one of the most sophisticated astronomical observatories ever flown
in space.

It features the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope and a suite
of high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy instruments. The
telescope’s array of exquisitely polished and aligned mirrors allows
scientists to gather X-rays from celestial sources billions of light
years away, revealing cosmic phenomena not visible to conventional
optical telescopes.

Since producing its first X-ray images in August 1999, Chandra has
provided astronomers with a startling, new look at the high-energy
universe of supernova remnants, pulsars, black holes and clouds of
multi-million degree gas that comprise clusters of galaxies.

Among its most significant achievements to date are the discovery
of a giant ring around the heart of the Crab Pulsar in the Crab Nebula
— the remains of a stellar explosion; the discovery of the first
X-ray flare ever seen from a brown dwarf star; the resolution of the
universe’s high energy X-ray “glow” into millions of specific light
sources; and the first unambiguous detection and X-ray measurement of
emission lines associated with gamma ray bursts, mysterious blasts of
high-energy radiation thought to be generated by the collapse of
massive stars.

Chandra’s advanced engineering features and its contributions to
X-ray astronomy have earned it widespread recognition among consumer
and aerospace trade publications.

To date, it has received a number of prestigious awards, including
one of Popular Science magazine’s 1999 “Best of What’s New” awards, a
1999 Laurels Award from Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, a
2000 Rotary National Stellar Award for Space Achievement, the Editor’s
Choice Award in the 2000 Discover Magazine’s Awards for Technological
Innovation and the 2000 AIAA Space Systems Award.

The TRW-led contractor team that designed and built Chandra
included Eastman Kodak, which built the X-ray telescope; Raytheon,
which produced the X-ray mirrors; and Ball Aerospace and Technologies
Corp., which built the integrated science instrument module and
Chandra’s aspect camera.

Chandra’s science instruments were provided by the SAO, Penn State
University, MIT, Space Research Organization of the Netherlands, and
the Max Planck Institute in Germany. SAO conducts the Chandra science
mission for NASA while TRW heads up the Chandra flight operations team
at the Chandra Operations Control Center, Cambridge, Mass.