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Tue, August 2 2011

Good-bye “Beyond the Limits,” Hello “Time and Navigation”

We have been reminded that the retirement of the space shuttle is not only the end of an era, it is also the beginning of a new phase of human space exploration, with new launch vehicles, destinations, and technology. I don’t wish to make too much of the comparison, but there is a parallel in...

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Grumman X-29 full-scale model
Sat, July 30 2011

Tuskegee Bird Flies North

During the past two years, it has been my privilege to work closely with the curatorial staff of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to locate an aircraft with a lineage tied directly to the Tuskegee Airmen. We were fortunate enough to accomplish the mission that will culminate in the acquisition of a PT-13 Stearman that flew at Moton Field, Alabama, during WW II—the home of the Tuskegee Airmen.

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PT-13 Stearman
Thu, July 28 2011

Astronomy Night at the Museum

The night opened with few clouds and a bright waxing gibbous moon. Alex and I, interns at the National Air and Space Museum, stood outside with Sean O'Brien, astronomy educator at the Museum and Albert Einstein Planetarium technician, to survey the sky and anticipate the night. This was my first star party at the Museum. As we set up, the first line of visitors formed outside the door of the Public Observatory waiting for 6 p.m. — opening time. We set up the Tele Vue telescope first. The view was spectacular. Along the terminator, the line between the dark and light sides of the Moon, craters popped between the stark white of the moon and the blue of the sky.

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Sun - January 19, 2011
Fri, July 22 2011

Curiosity Landing Site

Here is a riddle: What takes more than 60 locations, 5 years, and 150 scientists to decide? The landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity. Picking the landing site for a spacecraft to land on another planet is always serious business. And the job of finding the best location for Curiosity to set down on Mars was no exception. Curiosity’s mission is geared towards understanding whether Mars could have ever been habitable.

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Curiosity Landing Site
Thu, July 21 2011

General William “Billy” Mitchell and the Sinking of the Ostfriesland: A Consideration

July 21, 2011, marks the ninetieth anniversary of the sinking of the captured German battleship Ostfriesland by the First Provisional Air Brigade of the U.S. Army Air Service. This unit was commanded by Brig. General William “Billy” Mitchell, one of the most controversial figures in the history of air power in the United States.

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General William “Billy” Mitchell and the Sinking of the Ostfriesland: A Consideration
Sat, July 9 2011

New Plants Blast off in the Landscape

Moonbeams, rockets, and Blue Angels are not just showcased in the National Air and Space Museum — they are in the garden too!

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Smithsonian Gardens Staffers outside the Museum
Tue, July 5 2011

The Spirit of '76

When I arrived at the National Air and Space Museum, Astro, as we called our department, consisted of just four curator/subject matter specialists and two support staff, shoe-horned into the northeast tower of the Arts and Industries Building, with a splendid view of the dumpster in the parking lot of the building.

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Smithsonian South Yard in 1974
Sun, July 3 2011

A New Curiosity

There is a strange looking car parked in the west end of the National Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington, DC. For now, it is only visible behind its security screen from the second floor landing above. From that vantage, the vehicle’s six wheels, robotic arm, mast, and other protrusions are clearly visible. But since this is the Air and Space Museum, it must be more than just a normal car. Soon the barriers will be gone and the public will be able to view the vehicle up close and personal. And what they will see is a model of the next Mars rover, NASA’s 2011 Mars Science Laboratory. The rover, dubbed “Curiosity” will be launched to Mars later this year and will begin its mission to explore whether places on the Red Planet were ever habitable.

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NASA Mars Rover Curiosity at JPL
Fri, July 1 2011

35 Years at the National Air and Space Museum

Dominick Pisano, Museum staff member since 1975, shares his memories of the move to the current Museum and the work that went into transporting the entire library. 

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Rocket Row on West Side of A&I Building; 1960s
Fri, June 24 2011

Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship”

Early in June, staff of the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility slowly and carefully moved the center section of the Horten H IX V3 all-wing jet fighter from storage into the restoration and preservation shop. 

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Horten H IX V3

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