Looking at Earth

Looking at Earth explores the technology of aerial and space observation and its many uses. The gallery displays aircraft and spacecraft and examples of the photographic and imaging devices used on them. Throughout the exhibition are countless images taken from above. Some are historic; others show scientific, military, or civil applications; others are simply beautiful. All allow us to examine the familiar from unfamiliar perspectives.

Highlights include a de Havilland DH-4, a World War I aircraft used for aerial observation and photography; a Lockheed U-2, designed for Cold War aerial surveillance; personal objects of Soviet-captured U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers; and several generations of weather satellites. A "What's New" section displays frequently updated images of current interest taken of our planet from space.


Highlights:

De Havilland DH-4


de Havilland DH-4
The versatile de Havilland DH-4 played many roles in both military and civilian capacities. In addition to its bombing activities in World War I, the DH-4 was an observation and photoreconnaissance aircraft. Between the Wars, the "Liberty Planes," as the DH-4s were called, took on many different jobs, including forest patrols and geologic reconnaissance. For 10 years they served as the Army Air Service's standard airplane for aerial mapping and photography.

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Lockheed U-2

Lockheed U-2
Developed in the mid-1950s by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his team, the U-2 was designed for high altitude photoreconnaissance. Equipped with an 80-foot wingspan to aid in achieving maximum altitude, the U-2 at first could fly over the Soviet Union unharassed by Russian jets and antiaircraft missiles which were unable to match its performance. In 1960, however, the U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers was brought down during a reconnaissance mission in Soviet air space. Since that time, U-2s have played a vital role in reconnaissance of the Soviet missile buildup in Cuba in 1962; verification of nuclear testing in China; reconnaissance in Vietnam and the Middle East; and civil disaster assessment and environmental monitoring. The Air and Space Museum's aircraft is a U-2C painted in camouflage colors for a special Air Force project.

More Information: Lockheed U-2

TIROS Satellite

TIROS Satellite
The world's first weather satellite, TIROS-1, was launched on April 1,1960. It provided more than 22,000 pictures of the Earth from orbit. This new way to look at Earth's weather revolutionized the science of storm prediction. Now even the most remote places on Earth could be monitored regularly. The Museum's object is a prototype used for ground testing.

ITOS Satellite

ITOS Satellite
ITOS (Improved TIROS Operational System) satellites were the second series of TIROS operational satellites. Their predecessors, the TOS (TIROS Operational System) satellites represented a step up from a research and development phase into a fully operational program. ITOS-1, launched in January 1970, greatly surpassed the performance of the earlier satellites by providing both direct transmission and storage of television and infrared imagery. Later ITOS spacecraft also supplied vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature. ITOS satellites remained in service through 1979. The Museum's object is an engineering model.

More Information: ITOS Satellite

GOES Satellite

GOES Satellite
GOES satellites are designed to constantly monitor the same region of the Earth. They are placed in a geostationary orbit 35,800 kilometers (about 22,200 miles) above the equator. At this altitude, a satellite orbits at the same speed as the Earth rotates, so it remains fixed over one spot on the ground. From this vantage point GOES can provide intensive coverage of a region's daily weather developments, as well as warnings of severe storms to come. The Museum's object is a a 1/2-scale model.