How do you bring together two orbiting astronauts and more than 12,000 students scattered around the U.S. and Canada? It’s not rocket science, but it's close. First you have to find some very dedicated partners with a common purpose, like the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Second you have to ensure an audience; which isn’t very difficult because who wouldn’t jump at the chance to talk to astronauts while in space? Third, and most challenging, you have to put together the technology capable of linking 24 sites scattered around North America and Hawaii with something moving at 28,163 kph (17,500 mph) 354 km (220 miles) above the Earth’s surface.
March is Women’s History Month and those of us trained as women’s historians know that our topics have particular currency in the third month of the year. But for women in space, the month to celebrate really should be June.
Did you ever read a “choose-your-own-adventure” book as a kid? What about watching old episodes of Law & Order on cable? I enjoyed both, since it always felt like I was really working to solve a problem, either on my own or vicariously through Detective Lennie Briscoe (played by the incomparable Jerry Orbach). Sometimes, my job as a curator at the National Air and Space Museum benefits from my love of solving a mystery, and researching the collection of space cameras gave me that opportunity starting in 2004.
Astronaut Alan “Dex” Poindexter joined fellow Space Shuttle commanders and crewmembers at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center recently to welcome Discovery to its new home in the Smithsonian. Poindexter commanded the next-to-last Discovery mission, STS-131, in 2010. He also served as pilot on Atlantis for the STS-122 mission in 2008. Both shuttle crews delivered equipment for construction of the International Space Station. Poindexter joined the astronaut corps in 1998 in the midst of a distinguished career as a naval aviator, first as a fighter pilot, then as a test pilot. He served two deployments in the Arabian Gulf during operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch in the early 1990s.
Unlike many astronauts, Sally Kristen Ride did not dream of going into space since childhood. She was already in her mid-twenties, completing her Ph.D. in physics, when the idea dawned. NASA was recruiting women to apply to become astronauts for a spacecraft that had not yet flown: the Space Shuttle.
The Friendship 7 space capsule was designed to orbit the earth and it did just that on February 20, 1962, with John Glenn, Jr. on board. It circled the globe three times before landing in the Atlantic Ocean. Three months later Friendship 7 began its second mission, or what was popularly referred to as its “fourth orbit:” a worldwide exhibition that was organized to promote and represent the United States and its space program in nearly 30 cities around the world.