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Records & Firsts

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Mon, March 28 2016

Celebrating Women's History Month: All-Female Flight Crews

Women’s History Month in the United States began as Women’s History Week in 1982. The event was expanded to the entire month of March in 1987. Throughout the past month, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Air and Space Museum, have sponsored many events for Women’s History Month. On March 28, 1988, just the second official Women’s History Month, an all-female Air Force flight crew flew a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy across the Atlantic Ocean to commemorate the month.

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First All-Female Flight Crew of a C5
Fri, July 10 2015

First Mission to Pluto: The Difficult Birth of New Horizons

As we await the exciting results of New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto on July 14, it is all too easy to think that this mission was inevitable: the capstone to NASA’s spectacular exploration of all the planets (and ex-planets) of the solar system since the 1960s. Yet, it proved extraordinarily difficult to sustain a Pluto project.

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New Horizons Full-Scale Model
Thu, June 18 2015

Bell X-1 in 3D

In April, the  Smithsonian X 3D team pointed their lasers and scanners at the Bell X-1, the same iconic aircraft that shot Capt. Charles 'Chuck' Yeager across the pristine skies of the Mojave Desert to a record-breaking speed. On October 14, 1947,  in the Bell X-1, Yeager became the first pilot to fly faster than sound. Now, we can all get as close to the Bell X-1 as Yeager himself with the recently released 3D model of the exterior of the aircraft. In honor of the new 3D model and that resounding flight, we've compiled five facts to help you begin your exploration of the aircraft and that key moment in history. We also reached out to Smithsonian X 3D team to find out exactly how one goes about capturing a 3D model. But first, our five facts: 1. To conserve fuel, the X-1 was flown up to 7,620 meters (25,000 ft) attached to the bomb bay of a modified Boeing B-29 bomber and then dropped.  

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Chuck Yeager in Bell X-1
Thu, April 9 2015

First Flight Around the World: An Adventure for a New Generation

I asked many friends if they knew about the first flight around the world. No one did. How does such an incredible tale escape popular history? I decided that younger generations, especially, would enjoy reading about this dramatic saga.

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"Chicago" in Hong Kong
Wed, March 18 2015

How Two Cold War Spacewalks Came to a Common Technological Solution

Wednesday, March 18 marks the 50th anniversary of the first extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, of cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov.

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Leonov's Training Suit
Fri, March 6 2015

Happy Birthday to the World's First Woman in Space

Happy birthday Valentina Tereshkova! March 6th marks the 78th birthday of the world’s first woman to fly in space.

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The first six cosmonauts
Wed, November 12 2014

A New High Altitude Jump

On April 1, 2014, the National Air and Space Museum opened an exhibition featuring the pressurized Red Bull Stratos gondola that carried Felix Baumgartner to a record altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) over Roswell, New Mexico, and the pressure suit and parachute that protected him during the long fall back to Earth. Not long after, I had a visit from an old friend, balloonist Julian Nott, whose record-setting pressurized hot air balloon gondola was also coming into the Museum’s collection. One of the pioneers of modern ballooning, Julian has established 79 world ballooning records for altitude, distance, and time aloft during a long and extraordinary career.

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Alan Eustace at Take-Off
Mon, March 24 2014

The Big Jump

The National Air and Space Museum boasts an extraordinary collection of record setting balloon baskets and gondolas. There is Explorer II, which carried U.S. Army Air Corps Captains Albert W. Stevens and Orvil Anderson to a record altitude of (22,066 meters) 72,395 feet on November 11, 1935. In August 1978, Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman made the first balloon crossing of the Atlantic in Double Eagle II.

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Red Bull Stratos - Manned Flight Two: Felix Baumgartner
Tue, March 11 2014

Celebrating Jerrie Mock, the First Woman to Fly Around the World

On April 3, 1964, Jerrie Mock stood next to her Cessna 180 at Dhahran Airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The crowd of men before her looked puzzled and then one of them dashed forward to look into the cockpit. In her book Three-Eight Charlie, Mock recalled: “His white-kaffiyeh-covered head nodded vehemently, and he shouted to the throng that there was no man.  This brought a rousing ovation.”

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Jerrie Mock
Thu, January 2 2014

First Flight?

December 17, 2013, marked the 110th anniversary of the first powered, controlled flight of an airplane. Wilbur Wright had made the first attempt three days before, when the brothers laid their 60 foot launch rail down the lower slope of the Kill Devil Hill...He had set up a camera that morning, pointed at the spot where he thought the airplane would be in the air. When John T. Daniels walked up the beach with three other surf men from the nearby Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station, Orville asked him to squeeze the bulb operating the shutter if anything interesting happened. The result was what has arguably become the most famous photograph ever taken. Recently, however, some skeptics have suggested that the image does not depict a real flight at all.

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Wright Brothers First Flight

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