May 6th marks the anniversary of the tragic end of the airship Hindenburg, destroyed by fire as it came in for a landing at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, in 1937. Last year, to commemorate the anniversary, we posted the story of Anne "Cookie" Chotzinoff Grossman, who, on October 9th, 1936, spotted the Hindenburg in flight from her Connecticut schoolyard. She took off in hot pursuit along with her brother Blair, but the giant airship got away from them; Cookie and Blair trudged back to school, and Cookie was made to write “I will not follow the Hindenburg” on the blackboard a hundred times.
Things such as the Hope Diamond, the Star Spangled Banner, the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane are good examples—one-of-a-kind items, familiar to all, and widely known to reside at the Smithsonian. Also in this subset of signature objects is one of the most significant in the entire Smithsonian collection—the Wright Flyer, the world’s first airplane.
Most people know that satellites in orbit do useful things such as collect images of the Earth's surface. At the National Air and Space Museum I use satellite images in my job to understand changes in the Earth's land surface.
On the morning of March 2, I got an excited text message from fellow astronomy educator Shelley Witte, telling me that the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Discovery would be coming very close to transiting the Sun from our position at the National Air and Space Museum’s Public Observatory at exactly 3:08 pm.
On Saturday, March 19, I was thrilled to participate in the first ever Sun-Earth Day Tweetup organized by the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. It was also the first time the Smithsonian officially participated in a Tweetup. The event was a great opportunity to give twitter fans (aka “tweeps”) some face-to-face interaction with our research scientists, curators and educators, and provide some fun hands-on learning that illustrated the Sun-Earth connection.
The 2011 Major League Baseball season starts today at 1:05pm, when the National Air and Space Museum’s hometown Washington Nationals host the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. This afternoon the red and white uniforms of the Nationals will stand out against the bright green of the field. In the late 1950s, players took to the field of the U.S. Naval Air Material Center in Philadelphia wearing a different uniform—B.F. Goodrich Mark IV spacesuits.
The first decade of the twenty-first century has offered both serious challenges and enormous potential for the development of new human launch vehicles that could finally achieve the long-held dream of reliable, affordable access to space. But at the end of the decade, the policy questions posed by the 2003 loss of Columbia about the future U.S. human spaceflight still loom large.