When a team accomplishes what, at times, seemed impossible, it becomes a victory for all—an entire city or country, or all humankind. We see this in milestones throughout aviation history, and we celebrate those shared victories throughout our Museum. And when a sports team brings a championship to a city that hasn’t seen one in 25 years, the whole city comes out to celebrate.
July 15-24 marked the 35th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the famous “Handshake in Space.” ASTP was the first American-Soviet space flight, docking the last American Apollo spacecraft with the then-Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. This joint effort between the two major world players was based on an agreement signed in 1972, and it set a precedent for future joint efforts, such as the Shuttle-Mir Program and the International Space Station.
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.
In addition to the “Apollo 11 Codices”, the National Air and Space Museum holds approximately 150 works by the artist Mitchell Jamieson (1915 – 1976). The “Apollo 11 Codices” exemplify Jamieson’s journalistic style of painting, which was one reason NASA brought him into its Fine Art Program. Aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, Jamieson sketched the seamen working to recover the capsule and crew from the successful Apollo 11 mission. Jamieson was known for his depictions of the onlookers at major events rather than the events themselves. This style allows the viewer to believe that they are there as part of the crowd, feeling the energy and excitement. Three of Jamieson’s works are traveling as part of the exhibition “NASA Art: Fifty Years of Exploration” organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in cooperation with NASA and the National Air and Space Museum.
In the summer of 2009 the United States celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the first Moon landing, Apollo 11. Amidst all of the hoopla virtually every news story, especially in the electronic world, made some comment about a supposedly rising belief that humans have never landed on the Moon. Why?
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.
The National Air and Space Museum is holding its first ever virtual conference for educators on Tuesday, November 10 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST. Since we’re in the middle of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the Apollo missions, we decided to focus on this important period in American history. Staff from our Division of Space History will discuss some fascinating topics such as the real story behind President Kennedy’s famous speech challenging Congress to send Americans to the Moon; the role of computers—a new technology in the 1960s; the myth of presidential leadership during this time period; the intersections of Ralph Abernathy, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Moon landing; the rise of six iconic Apollo images and how they have been used over time; and the denials of the Moon landings by a small segment of the population and their evolution since the 1960s.
When the Apollo 11 spacecraft lifted off on July 16, 1969, for the Moon, it signaled a climactic instance in human history. Reaching the Moon on July 20, its Lunar Module—with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard—landed on the lunar surface while Michael Collins orbited overhead in the Apollo 11 command module. Armstrong soon set foot on the surface, telling millions on Earth that it was “one small step for [a] man—one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin soon followed him out and the two planted an American flag but omitted claiming the land for the U.S. as had been routinely done during European exploration of the Americas, collected soil and rock samples, and set up scientific experiments. The next day they returned to the Apollo capsule overhead and returned to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.
Regular summer visitors to the National Air and Space Museum are familiar with the Museum’s popular event, Mars Day. This year, Mars is taking a backseat to allow us to honor the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing with Countdown to the Moon Day.
What will the astronauts who return to the Moon with NASA’s Constellation program drive? I had a chance to find out last October as a member of NASA's Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) during the field test of the Lunar Electric Rover (LER) at Black Point lava flow in Arizona.
Of course the designers also used digital computers, but in the 1960s computers were giant machines that you programmed with punched cards, and they were strictly reserved for only the most complex mathematical calculations. As the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission approaches, we are constantly reminded of how incredible that voyage was.