Airports. How much have you thought about airports? The anthropologist Marc Augé describes airports as “non-places” where travelers, despite location, encounter the same stores, chain restaurants, and security procedures. Museum Curator Jennifer Van Vleck disagrees. To her, despite their anonymous character, there is no other public place in which so many emotions are openly displayed—the joy of a great adventure, the sadness of saying farewell, or even the anxiety of moving.
The last time the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia traveled the US was in 1970. Almost 50 years later, the historic spacecraft that helped take us to the Moon and back is headed out on the road for a nationwide tour. Following the tour, the Command Module will be placed on permanent display in the exhibition Destination Moon, scheduled to open in 2020 at the Museum in Washington, DC. The Museum’s conservation team will spend the next six months preparing the artifact for travel and display. Conservator Lisa Young shares what the next few months will look like and what she’s most interested in finding out about Columbia.
What do NASCAR and space travel have in common? Beyond reaching speeds that would give the rest of us whiplash, the two also share a very special fiber. Nomex® fiber is used in both spacesuits and racing suits. The fiber, made by DuPont™, is extremely flame-resistant and has many applications.
What made the balloon such a key graphic element in political and social satire for over one century? Was it the bulbous shape, or the fact that balloons are wayward craft that tend to go where the wind blows, in spite of the aeronaut’s best efforts? Whatever the reason, the great comic artists of the 18th and 19th century turned to the balloon time and time again in order to poke fun at people and events. The meaning of many of the political satires, the inside joke, is often lost on us today. If any of our friends out there can enlighten us as to the story behind one of these mysteries, we welcome the assistance!
The flight of Friendship 7 has gained new resonance thanks to the movie Hidden Figures. Curator Michael Neufeld examines the movie through the lens of a space historian. Neufeld admits that the movie deviates from history often, but the movie was good, well-acted, inspirational, and important. The movie, and the book it is based on, are destined to change our national narrative about the space program and the people who contributed to it.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union ushered in the end of the cold war. The US withdrew its Pershing II missiles and the Soviet Union withdrew its SS-20s. Both countries were unwilling to use nuclear weapons, understanding the consequences of doing so—the Pershing II was a hundred times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. As a part of the treaty, both countries agreed that some of the missiles would be put in museums so that the public could see them and understand their history. A Pershing II and SS-20 are on display at the center of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. One of the Museum’s most engaging programs in observance of the hundredth anniversary of the First World War is Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, a year-long film series showing Hollywood’s finest feature films on World War I.
We recently took new photographs of the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft following its conservation. This is the same spacecraft that John Glenn piloted into Earth orbit, an American first. The images reveal details of the spacecraft that can be easy to overlook when taking the capsule in as a whole. Are you able to pinpoint the circles in the capsule's heat sheild where NASA extracted samples to test durability? Or what about the eye chart inside the capsule that John Glenn was asked to use to test his vision?
The Boeing 747 is one of the most significant airliners in history. The airliner popularized air travel and ushered in a new era of affordable airfare. In the early 1970s many of 747s were outfitted with extravagant amenities like bars, piano lounges, and even spiral staircases. The economic reality of such amenities eventually hit the airlines. They realized they could make a lot more money by replacing lounges with seats.
No celebration in 19th century France was complete without a balloon in the weeks and months following its invention. A balloon ascent had the power to gather crowds of delighted spectators eager to see something they had never seen before. This balloon craze was satirized and documented in prints and engravings from the time.