Watching the broadcast of the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifting off into the blue sky last week brought back memories of a research trip to the Kennedy Space Center last fall. National Air and Space Museum staff members are hard at work on a new exhibition about the history of the space shuttle era and the International Space Station.The trip included behind-the-scenes tours of various facilities at the Center and an up-close look at launch pad 39A with an elevator ride to 195 feet and a peek inside the entry hatch of Atlantis.
Every spring, the National Air and Space Museum hosts a conference for other air and space museums to discuss our "mutual concerns." The conference gathers representatives of over one hundred such museums.
I was struck by the relationship between climate change and spaceflight while rereading lately Jared Diamond’s fascinating 2004 book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The broad premise of Diamond’s book is that societies have collapsed many times in the past and that we may understand how and why this occurred.
The millions of visitors who pass through the doors of the National Air and Space Museum each year come to see the real thing, the actual air and space craft that shaped history – from the world’s first airplane to the back-up hardware for the latest robot spacecraft on its way to explore another world.
The National Air and Space Museum contains some of the largest artifacts in the world, which presents many unique challenges for handling and displaying. It is up to a small group of individuals, comprised of Collections and Restoration staff, to ensure artifacts are cared for and not damaged. Carrying out these duties are neither easy or for the faint of heart as we frequently utilize heavy equipment, such as forklifts, basket and scissor lifts, cranes, etc., within inches of the artifact. Working with less than an inch is typical as well. Additionally, as the National Air and Space Museum has so many oversized artifacts in its collection, we operate our own tractor trailer to support the museum's 3 locations.
One of the best things about working at the National Air and Space Museum is going to the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility every now and then. The museum keeps aircraft that is being restored and artifacts that need special storage conditions–like spacesuits!—out there.
Every year, the Smithsonian holds a huge Kite Festival on the National Mall. The weekend prior to the festival, the National Air and Space Museum has a Kite Family Day where kids and their families can make their own kites, learn how to fly them, and watch indoor kite flying demonstrations. I often search the web to find out what visitors are filming, photographing, blogging and tweeting about the Museum. I found lots of images and videos of the outdoor Kite Festival, but one of our educators found this great YouTube video which captures the fun of the indoor Kite Family Day in 2008.