Science & Engineering

Fri, June 9 2017

The Saga of Writing in Space

From dashing off a quick note to creating painstaking calligraphy, we often take writing for granted. But in space, where the stakes are high, how does one write? After all, the ink in pens isn’t held down by gravity, so how do you write upside down? 

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Knee Note Pad : Friendship 7
Mon, June 5 2017

A Brief History of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems

Last week a United States’ “hit-to-kill vehicle” intercepted and destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time during a test. Until fifteen years ago, however, anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) like the one just tested were banned under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the United States and Soviet Union in 1972.   

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Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle Model
Tue, March 14 2017

The F-1 Engine and the Conquest of Space

“A rocket engine is a controlled explosion. So there’s this tension between pushing the technological state of the art and also maintaining safety and reliability," Curator Tom Lassman The F-1 engine remains the highest thrust rocket engine that NASA has ever flown (1.5 million pounds of thrust). The liquid-fueled engine was used during the Apollo program and sat at the bottom of the Saturn V. The engines were designed to be disposable. After reaching a certain altitude, the engines would shut down and fall back into the ocean.  When the Saturn V was taken out of service, NASA shifted from disposable rocketry to reusable rocketry. In recent years, NASA has revisited the F-1 to help inform the next generation of launch vehicles like the Space Launch System (SLS). 

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F-1 rocket engines in Apollo to the Moon
Wed, January 4 2017

Examining the SLS Rocket with Astronaut Christina Koch

NASA is building a brand new rocket for the future of human spaceflight. Astronaut Christina Koch, who graduated from NASA’s astronaut training program in 2015, helps us examine the Space Launch System rocket in more detail. 

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SLS Rocket
Tue, November 1 2016

Spaceflight to Parade Float

Visitors to the newly renovated Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall may miss one particular satellite hanging amongst historical heavyweights such as the Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis and the Lunar Module LM-2. This object, however, with its distinctive blue solar panels deployed, is a full-scale engineering prototype of Mariner 2, the first spacecraft to radio useful scientific data from the vicinity of another planet, Venus.

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The Venus of Pasadena Rose Bowl float
Fri, October 28 2016

Your Captions: Just Hanging Around

File this next photo from our “Caption This” series under bizarre work-place duties. The captions you submitted were spot on. The truth is this man is no circus performer, he’s a test subject. In 1966-1967, NASA Langley developed OMEGA (One-Man Extravehicular Gimbal Arrangement). OMEGA was created to simulate weightlessness and permitted its tester unlimited movement. Tests were conducted using OMEGA with subjects in flight suits and pressure suits to determine the best operation techniques and refinements to the device.

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OMEGA Testing
Mon, October 24 2016

Howard Hughes and the World’s Fastest Land Plane

Famous film producer and entrepreneur, Howard Hughes, set his sights on building the world's fastest land plane. The result was the sleek Hughes H-1 Racer, which broke the world speed record in 1935, and later the US transcontinental speed record in 1937.

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Howard Hughes and the World’s Fastest Land Plane

Howard Hughes
Tue, October 18 2016

How Sojourner Got the Public Excited About Mars

How did Sojourner, the first rover NASA successfully landed on Mars, get its name? The rover and its flight spare were named through a contest open to all students under 18. First place was Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist and women's rights activist. The flight spare was named after Marie Curie, the famous physicist and chemist. The Pathfinder Sojourner mission was not only a successful mission to Mars, but it engaged the public in planetary exploration. 

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Sojourner on Mars
Fri, October 7 2016

A Quick History of Launch Escape Systems

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezo’s private rocket company, passed an in-flight test of its launch escape system Wednesday—a method of detaching a crew capsule from a launch rocket. The successful test moves Blue Origin one step closer to its goal of carrying tourists into space. How to bring crews safely back to Earth in the event something goes wrong during a launch has always been a concern. Launch escape systems have been engineered into nearly all ventures into space.

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Artist Rendering of Launch Escape
Wed, September 28 2016

The History of Japan’s First Jet Aircraft

Earlier this year, our collections staff at the Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, moved the Nakajima Kikka from beneath the wing of the Sikorsky JRS flying boat in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar and out onto the floor beneath the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay. Moving the Kikka provides an opportunity to bring visitors closer to the last known example of a World War II Japanese jet aircraft and the only Japanese jet to takeoff under its own power—it also opened up space in the Hangar so that our team could install netting to deter birds. 

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Japanese Jet Aircraft