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Fri, July 29 2016

Flying the SR-71

The Museum is fortunate that among our corps of docents, or guides, are people with direct experience flying or flying in a number of our aircraft. Among those docents are Buz Carpenter and Phil Soucy who know what its like to sit inside one of the world's fastest aircrafts, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Landing at Dulles
Thu, July 28 2016

Setting Records with the SR-71 Blackbird

Today in 1976, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird broke the world’s record for sustained altitude in horizontal flight at 25,929 meters (85,069 feet). The same day another SR-71 set an absolute speed record of 3,529.6 kilometers per hour (2,193.2 miles per hour), approximately Mach 3.3. As the fastest jet aircraft in the world, the SR-71 has an impressive collection of records and history of service. The Blackbird’s owes its success to the continuum of aircraft that came before it.

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A ladder is used to access the cockpit of the SR-71.
Wed, July 27 2016

The Mystery of Grey Spots on Apollo Glove

The last time Neil Armstrong's gloves and helmet were displayed, in 2012, visitors asked us about “grey spots” on the right glove. We're conducting research and examining historical documentation to find out why.

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Armstrong's glove glows under UV light.
Mon, July 25 2016

Exploring Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes: A Towering Red Planet Analog

As the National Air and Space Museum’s annual Mars Day! celebration approaches, we look to a recent research trip taken by a Smithsonian Summer Intern to investigate the similarities between some of Earth’s most amazing dunes and those found on the ruddy surface of Mars.

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Geologist Jim Zimbelman bends over in the sand with a ruler.
Sun, July 24 2016

Amelia Earhart: Using Fashion to Inspire Flight

Did you know Earhart created a clothing line called “Amelia Fashions” in 1933? Earhart had been interested in flying apparel for women for years. At the beginning of her career, Earhart had to wear aviation suits that were designed for men and poorly fitted for a woman. There was nothing else available.

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Amelia Earhart sits with her legs to the side.
Sun, July 24 2016

Operation Moon Bounce

On July 24, 1954, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) at Stump Neck, Maryland (now the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland) sent and received the first human voice transmission to be bounced back to Earth from the Moon. Moon bounce, also known as Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communication, is a technique that sends radio wave transmissions from Earth to the Moon. 

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Black and white photo of two technicians installing antenna
Thu, July 21 2016

Iconic Apollo Photography Sells Savings Bonds

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, and the U.S. Treasury turned to America’s newest space heroes to fundraise. In 1970, the Advertising Council began one of the Treasury’s longest running Savings Bond promotions, “Take stock in America.” One of the first posters produced for the promotion is a photographic assembly depicting the United States’ conquest of the Moon.

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Image of savings bond.
Thu, July 21 2016

Curator’s Dilemma: Displaying the Lunar Module

The Museum’s Lunar Module LM-2 represents a dilemma, at least for the current generation of Smithsonian curators and conservators. What stages of its history are most important, and how should it to be presented to the public?

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Image of the Lunar Module from the second floor.
Wed, July 20 2016

Command Module Columbia in 3D

In partnership with the Smithsonian Digital Program Office (DPO), we all now have access to the most detailed view of the inside and outside of the command module Columbia. Using state-of-the-art 3D scanning and photogrammetry, DPO captured the real artifact in such high detail that every bolt and thread can be seen.

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Command Module Columbia in 3D

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Screenshot of the EVA handles from the 3D of the command module Columbia.
Tue, July 19 2016

Charles Blair: Civilian Adventurer Turned Cold War Navigator

Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles F. Blair, an aviator made famous by his solo flight over the North Pole, whose real accomplishment is often overlooked.

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Image of Charles Blair posing in the cockpit of Excalibur III

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