Behind those amazing artifacts in the National Air and Space Museum are thousands of stories of human achievement, failure, and perseverance. Join AirSpace hosts Emily, Matt, and Nick as they demystify one of the world’s most visited museums and explore why people are so fascinated with stories of exploration, innovation, and discovery.
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For six months in 1964 the US Air Force flew an airplane at supersonic speeds over Oklahoma City, often multiple times a day, in a series of tests called Project Bongo. The story of how and why the tests happened is a wild ride, and we’re breaking it down for you today on AirSpace.
Sleeping in space goes back almost as far as there have been people in space (specifically, a cosmonaut who caught some shuteye in 1961). Astronauts have slept in capsules, shuttles, space stations, and even on the Moon. Sleep is an important part of an astronaut’s health, particularly for longer duration missions. But from noisy crewmates to spaceship sounds and even the sheer excitement of it all, sleeping in space hasn’t always been easy. To find out what it’s really like we speak with former astronaut Mike Massimino who relates his shuttle sleeping experience to a big slumber party. We’re catching Zs in zero-G, today on AirSpace.
In 1971 an Apollo 14 astronaut took about 500 tree seeds into orbit around the Moon. When he got back, those seeds were distributed, germinated, and planted all around the United States. And then… they were mostly forgotten about, even by NASA. That is, until the mid-1990s when a teacher at a Girl Scout camp in Indiana wondered what was up with this “Moon Tree” at her local camp. On this episode, we speak with the NASA planetary scientist who received her question, and as a result, started a database to track down the Moon Tree locations. Today, there are 67 known, living, first generation Moon Trees all over the United States – maybe even in your town!
Skywriting is something you might witness at the beach, or a sporting event, or an outdoor concert. A popular form of aerial advertising and even the occasional marriage proposal, skywritten messages can have a BIG impact (and with letters approximately 1500 feet tall… we mean that quite literally). But maybe you didn’t know that it originated with the military and dates wayyy back to the early days of aviation in 1910. This episode will be your exhaustive look into everything you’d want to know about skywriting – how it works, who does it, the most popular examples, and even its code of conduct. And to learn all about it, we speak to a skywriting pilot whose family has been in the business since nearly the beginning.
When you hear the term “space archaeology” you might envision a khaki-clad astronaut excavating the Moon. But actually, space archaeologists are actually Earth-bound researchers who use satellite and other aerial imagery to assist in archaeological applications right here on our home planet. This imagery is used to find new archaeological sites, track changes on already discovered ones, and even helps fight looting.
It’s been nearly 50 years (!) since humans last walked on the Moon. But NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions will soon return astronauts to the lunar surface. Artemis isn’t just about going back – it’s about science! So to answer all of our burning questions about what Artemis astronauts will do, where they will go, and what makes this all different from Apollo, we spoke to the Artemis science lead, Dr. Sarah Noble.
A decade ago it was pretty rare to see an all-electric car on the road. Now that you see them all. the. time. we wondered – what about electric vehicles in the *sky*? Several companies are working to overcome the challenges of all-electric flight, and it’ll likely be a long time before your commercial plane goes electric. But smaller, shorter-distance applications of all-electric air transport might be just around the corner. In this episode, we speak to Dr. Martine Rothblatt to learn how her company is working towards using electric helicopters to deliver the ultimate precious cargo -- transplantable human organs.
In 1859 the Sun threw a temper tantrum directed at Earth. It spewed magnetized plasma into space, which made its way here and triggered effects that *literally* shocked telegraph operators (not to mention knocking down telegraph lines and causing aurora to be seen near the equator). If a geomagnetic storm of this size happened today, it could cause a widespread electrical and communications blackout. Events of that magnitude are rare but the Sun’s activity affects us all the time – from static on the radio to a diverted commercial flight or a wonky GPS app. The good news is scientists are monitoring the Sun to predict when and where effects will be felt. On today’s episode, we speak to experts from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center to learn how and why they stare at the Sun (for science!).
On today’s episode, we’re cheering for the fraternal twins of the outer solar system. You might know them as the Ice Giants, but really they’re big mush-balls: Uranus and Neptune. And like most siblings, these two planets have plenty in common: both discovered by telescope, both have ring and moon systems, and both were studied by Voyager 2. Scientists have learned a ton about Uranus and Neptune over the last few decades, but since these planets are hard to see and even harder to get to, many questions remain. It’s all about the coolest planets of the solar system today on AirSpace.
On the scale of thrilling aviation activities, hot air balloon rides normally rank pretty low. But how would you feel if one balloon ride was your ticket to a better life? AND what if you had to not only pilot the balloon yourself, but build it from scratch, in secret? What started with a magazine article about the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta ended with a thrilling aerial escape from East Germany in 1979. On this episode of AirSpace, we hear what it was like from someone who lived it firsthand. And we talk to a modern-day balloonist to learn just how difficult it is to create your own air-worthy balloon.