This month marks 80 years of female flight attendants. It's hard to imagine a time without them, but until 1930, airlines employed male stewards. That changed when Ellen Church, a nurse from Iowa, approached Steve Simpson at Boeing Air Transport (later United Airlines) with the radical idea of putting women nurses on airliners.
May 10 may ring a bell for fans of the 1970s television show The Six Million Dollar Man. On that day in 1967, a NASA research aircraft, the wingless M2-F2 lifting body, crashed in the California desert. A film clip of the crash opened the popular weekly show about the gravely injured fictional pilot, Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation the intrepid crew of the United Starship Enterprise repeatedly face the Borg, cyborgs intent on assimilating the biological creatures of the universe into their collective consciousness. Their meme, “resistance is futile,” serves as a convenient tagline for this ongoing plot device in the fictional series, but it also may foreshadow a more realistic future for humanity as we reach into space. When considering the far future and the potential for humans to colonize other bodies in the solar system and beyond, perhaps humanity will adapt to the space environment through modifications of the human body like those found on the Borg. This idea was first broached by scientists Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in a 1960 NASA study.
The superlatives tend to pile up pretty quickly when it comes to the rigid airship Hindenburg, the pride of the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei line...It’s a shame, though, that the Hindenburg is remembered today primarily for its tragic final flight.
Sometimes seemingly ordinary people become extraordinary by staying remarkably calm and capable in a crisis. The crew of US Airways Flight 1549 performed exceptionally on January 15, 2009, when their Airbus A320 jetliner became disabled over New York City after flying through a flock of geese moments after they took off from LaGuardia Airport. Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey B. Skiles masterfully guided the powerless aircraft to an emergency “landing” on the Hudson River.
On April 28th, we will be awarding the National Air and Space Museum’s Trophy Award for Current and Lifetime Achievement. The Trophy was initiated in 1985 and has been given every year but one since then. This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., for a lifetime of service to aerospace, especially for his role in defining the responsibilities of Mission Control for human spaceflight at NASA. Anyone who has seen the Hollywood film Apollo 13 knows how crucial the mission controllers were in saving that mission and its crew from disaster. While the filmmakers may have exaggerated a few things, in that regard they were correct. Mission controllers—at first located at Cape Canaveral, later on in Houston—were critical to the success of all the human missions into space, and it was Kraft who determined their roles and responsibilities.
I teach an exhibition design course as an adjunct professor for the George Washington University’s Museum Studies program. I tell my students I’ve got the best job in the world: designing exhibitions for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. They often ask what you need to know to be an exhibit designer and how they can get there, too.