Behind the scenes at the National Air and Space Museum, curators, fellows, and scientists conduct research that increases our understanding of aviation and space exploration's role in history; science and technology's central place in modern life; and the latest findings about our solar system. Activities include geologic field studies; research of Earth-like planets and direct involvement in planetary missions; contributing to professional organizations and societies; conducting historical research; hosting symposiums; and writing scholarly and popular books, papers, and articles.
Aeronautics and Space History
Curators and museum specialists in the Aeronautics Department and the Department of Space History conduct research related to all aspects of flight in the atmosphere and the history and technology of spaceflight, space science, and exploration. This research is essential in developing exhibits for the public, selecting artifacts for the Museum's collection, writing publications, and educating the public through lectures and other means.
Our curatorial departments released two books this year:
- Reinventing the Propeller: Aeronautical Specialty and the Triumph of the Modern Airplane by aeronautics curator Jeremy Kinney.
- Spaceflight in the Shuttle Era and Beyond: Redefining Humanity’s Purpose in Space by space history curator Valerie Neal.
They also presented papers at professional conferences, gave professional talks in a variety of venues, wrote book reviews, contributed chapters to books, and wrote scholarly articles. View a complete list of Aeronautics and Space History scholarly activities.
Center for Earth and Planetary Studies
The Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (CEPS) is the scientific research unit within the National Air and Space Museum. Its scientists conduct an active research program in planetary and terrestrial geology and geophysics.
In FY 2017, CEPS scientists authored or co-authored 28 papers in science journals. Six of these appeared in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature Geoscience, and Geophysical Research Letters. View a complete list of CEPS writings.
Staff received numerous awards from respected outside organizations and associations in 2017, including the Geological Society of America, the National Aeronautic Association, and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. View a complete list of staff awards.
& the Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar Award
Michael Neufeld, senior curator in the Department of Space History, received one of two Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar Awards in 2017. The award celebrates excellence in Smithsonian scholarship. The Smithsonian was founded as an organization for the increase and diffusion of knowledge, and the Distinguished Scholar Awards highlights the Institution’s commitment to that mission. It celebrates knowledge derived through historical inquiry, the scientific method, and rigorous analysis and peer review.
Neufeld earned his Ph.D in history from The Johns Hopkins University and has been with the National Air and Space Museum for nearly 30 years. He started his career at the Museum as a curator in the Aeronautics Department, specializing in World War II history and German World War II aircraft. For the last two decades, he has worked in the Department of Space History, serving as the curator for the early missile and rocket collections and Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. His expertise in both aviation and space make him an embodiment of the National Air and Space Museum’s scholarship.
He has conducted extensive research into an array of aerospace topics, including the life and work of Wernher von Braun, tracing the history of spaceflight from the conditions under which the V-2 missile came into existence in Nazi Germany through von Braun’s pioneering work on the United States’ first space satellite, Explorer 1, and the Apollo program. Neufeld has also made major contributions clarifying the historical issue of strategic bombing, and more recently, examined many aspects of NASA’s planetary missions, particularly the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
Neufeld has written three prize-winning books, has edited five more, and frequently publishes scholarly articles and papers. He is also committed to educating and inspiring the public, frequently using his research to write blog posts for our website and giving formal and informal lectures for Museum visitors.
The National Air and Space Museum and our visitors benefit greatly from Michael Neufeld’s scholarship and dedication.