Seventy years ago, on June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union closed all surface routes into the western zone of Berlin. For 18 months, American and British aircrews flew around-the-clock bringing supplies into Berlin, in a mission called the Berlin Airlift.
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.
In this four-part series, curators Russ Lee and Evelyn Crellin take an in-depth look at the Lippisch DM 1, an experimental German glider. At the conclusion of Part 1, construction of the glider had begun in August 1944 by students of the Flugtechnische Fachgruppe (FFG). Construction of the experimental glider was derailed dramatically on September 11 and 12, 1944, when Allied bombers struck Darmstadt, including the building that housed the FFG D 33 project.
With all the activities going on lately about World War II aircraft, I’d like to tell the story of Russian naval pilot Alexander de Seversky, that country’s top naval ace in World War I, who later became one of the most influential proponents of the use of strategic air power in warfare — and Disney film star — in the United States. De Seversky was born in Triflis, Russia on June 7, 1894, to an aristocratic family. He learned how to fly by age 14 from his father who owned one of the first airplanes in Russia. De Seversky earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Imperial Russian Naval Academy in 1914 — at the outbreak of World War I — and became a second lieutenant in the Imperial Naval Air Service the following year.
In the morning hours, before the National Air and Space Museum opens to the public, I’m often in the galleries going about my work among some of the great aviation treasures of the world. At every turn there is an airplane that left its mark on history or pointed the way to the future. It’s an inspiring setting. History’s ghosts swirl in your imagination. But, as rich as this experience is, there are times, alone in the quiet of the Museum, that I cannot help but imagine what it would be like to see these airplanes come back to life—to experience the sights and sounds of these world-changing machines before they became silent milestones of history in the Museum.
The phrase is really shorthand for a deeper question, namely, what happened to the optimistic predictions for air and space travel after the historic Apollo landings on the Moon, between 1969 and 1972? Why, after 45 years, are there no permanent colonies on the Moon?
When the vernal equinox in Washington, DC, is accompanied by a cold, wet day, it’s hard to imagine that spring is actually here. But over the last few weeks the nation's capital, has been celebrating one of its biggest annual events—the National Cherry Blossom Festival. But did you know the National Air and Space Museum has some cherry blossoms of its own?
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.
Every week or two we see news of another museum digitizing its collection and making it accessible online. The Smithsonian is no exception, and efforts are under way across our campus to scan artifacts, works of art, documents, and films and put them on our websites. These projects take months if not years to complete, but it is our high priority to open the museums to visitors beyond our walls, and digitization is a key part of our strategy. The National Air and Space Museum, working closely with the Smithsonian’s central Digitization Program Office, already has made a pioneering step in this direction by scanning the iconic 1903 Wright Flyer in 3D and creating a number of “tours” that enable online visitors to examine the aircraft as a whole and take detailed looks at many of its features. We have just scanned Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and are preparing the auxiliary content for online access.