In my 30 years at the Museum, I have seen millions of visitors of every age and nationality pose to have their pictures taken in front of the huge astronaut figure in Bob McCall’s mural in the lobby. It makes me happy to think that his work is in photo albums around the globe, associated with fond vacation memories. I send my heartfelt condolences to Louise and the McCall family and thank them for my own fond memories of knowing Bob and Louise McCall.
Greetings, from the Astronomy Intern here at the National Air and Space Museum! I will admit that despite being the Astronomy Intern, I am not a science person by background. In fact, my experience is in world literature, history, and multicultural advocating. So what am I doing here, you ask?
For more than a decade it has been my privilege, among my other duties, to serve as curator of the National Air and Space Museum art collection. It comes as a surprise to many folks to realize that the Museum has an art collection. In fact, it includes over 4,700 works by artists with names like Daumier, Goya, Rauschenberg, Rockwell and Wyeth.
I was perusing that perennial bestseller, the FAA’s “Aeronautical Information Manual,” the other night, and ran across an intriguing reference to code beacons and course lights. Code beacons, in general, flash identifying information in Morse code; coded course lights are used with rotating beacons of the Federal Airway System, are highly directional, and are paired back-to-back pointed along the airway. What interested me was the appended note:
Who has not seen the bright blue and white image of the Earth, swaddled in clouds and looking inviting, in numerous places and in various settings? Taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts on December 7, 1972, this photograph is one of the most widely distributed images in existence.
To get to Antarctica, I first flew on commercial flights from Washington, D.C. to Christchurch, New Zealand. While in Christchurch, I picked up special gear for the cold and harsh conditions in Antarctica from the US Antarctic Program Clothing Distribution Center. Several days later, I boarded a C-17 plane bound for McMurdo Station, Antarctica. In November, the temperatures are still cold enough that the sea ice surrounding McMurdo is used as a runway for aircraft. As I first stepped off the plane in Antarctica onto that expansive sheet of snow-covered ice, I was greeted by a blast of icy air, biting wind, and an amazing view of Mt. Erebus, the southernmost historically active volcano. It was so beautiful, it almost took my breath away!
While hunting for images of navigators in World War II, a series appeared which, although completely distant from my topic, still grabbed my attention. They were pictures of a military funeral. These pictures were unique, however, because they were not showing the solemn burial of a soldier, airmen, or sailor; they were showing the burial of a unit mascot.