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Thu, December 8 2016

Remembering Senator John Herschel Glenn Jr.

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, became the first American to orbit the Earth. His service to his country did not begin or end there, however. A U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot, Glenn was decorated veteran of two wars, a U.S. Senator for Ohio, and an astronaut again when he traveled into space for the second time in 1998. He was also a great friend of the National Air and Space Museum.

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John Glenn with His Mercury Friendship 7 Capsule
Thu, December 8 2016

What Would an Alien Spaceship Look Like?

What would a spacecraft carrying aliens to first contact with Earth look like? In Arrival (2016), director Denis Villeneuve’s creative imagination of alien ships arriving at Earth, 12 large, dark, smooth, elongated ships hover effortlessly, without any visible means of propulsion, over far-flung sites on Earth. In response, in the United States, the military and the State Department engage linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to help communicate with the inhabitants. The spaceships themselves present an appearance as inscrutable as the aliens themselves initially are. When the team led by Colonel GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) enters one of them, the roughly textured surfaces of the exterior and walls suggest wear or aging but offer no specific clues about the interior, the ship’s inhabitants, or, most important, their intentions. The resulting narrative of first contact, adapted as a screenplay by Eric Heisserer from a short story by Ted Chiang, proves satisfying, offering a thoughtful consideration of language, communication, and meaning.

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Mother Ship Model - Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Udvar-Hazy Ctr
Wed, December 7 2016

The Complicated Lead Up to Pearl Harbor

Today, on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Curator Laurence Burke took a step back and explored the long and complicated history that led up to the Japanese attack. Burke, to an audience outside the Museum’s Sea-Air Operations gallery, said the story of Pearl Harbor often focuses on the events of December 7, 1941, but not what happened before the day that President Roosevelt called, “a date which will live in infamy.” To understand Pearl Harbor, Burke took the audience back to 1853-1854 when U.S. Naval Captain Matthew C. Perry sailed to Japan and negotiated the opening of Japanese ports for trade. After more than 200 years of self-imposed isolation, Japan wanted to engage with the rest of the world.  

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Attack on Pearl Harbor
Tue, December 6 2016

Short Life Span

Because of inadequate heat resistant materials, the average life span of the first jet engines were only 25 hours at best. Today’s jet engines run 3,000 to 5,000 hours before they require an overhaul. Following this routine maintenance procedure, they can continue operating tens of thousands of hours.

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Short Life Span

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Technician Working on an Airacomet Engine
Mon, December 5 2016

Exploring the History of our Chinese Kite Collection

In 1876, after the dust from the United States’ first World’s Fair and Centennial Exposition settled on the grounds of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, the Smithsonian Institution’s collections expanded exponentially. Sixty boxcars filled with art, mechanical inventions, and other materials from many of the 37 countries who participated in the Exposition pulled into Washington, DC as gifts for a brand new museum.

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Original loan photograph
Sun, December 4 2016

Spacecraft Cookie Jar

Although sources may argue on the origins of National Cookie Day, two things are sugar-crystal clear: cookies are darn good, and the internet seems to agree that today is the day to celebrate them. In the 1960s, David McMahon and his family could have celebrated properly with a batch of chocolate chip cookies safely stored in this Mercury Friendship 7 cookie jar.

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Mercury Friendship 7 Cookie Jar
Thu, December 1 2016

Fifty Years of the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft

It is a remarkable fact that one of the two operational spacecraft that can carry humans into Earth orbit is celebrating its 50th birthday—the other is the Chinese Shenzhou craft. This week, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft turned 50 years old.

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Russian Soyuz
Tue, November 29 2016

Operational Logs of the Lafayette Escadrille

The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the “Escadrille Américaine” or the Lafayette Escadrille. Created on December 6, 1916, the Escadrille (or “squadron”) holds a unique place both in the history of World War I (1914-1918) and in the history of aviation overall. Most notably, the Escadrille was composed of American volunteers who chose to fight for France a year before the United States’ official entry into the Great War in April 1917.

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Operational Logs of the Lafayette Escadrille
Mon, November 28 2016

First U.S. Spacecraft on Mars

Viking 1 and 2 were the first U.S. spacecraft to successfully land on Mars. The two landers were equipped to complete Viking’s core mission: search for life on Mars. The landers were essentially laboratories, and could run tests on site. Though no evidence of Martian life was found, the wealth of planetary data and photographs the Viking spacecraft sent to back Earth made a great impact on planetary science.

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First U.S. Spacecraft on Mars

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Viking - First U.S. Spacecraft on Mars
Fri, November 25 2016

Black Hole Friday

Black Friday is upon us. If you are looking for ways to avoid being mauled and crushed at your local Mall, but you want to somehow observe the day in spirit, why not explore what it takes to discover a really massive and dense object, a black hole.

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M87 X-ray

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