Since its opening, and until recent years, our Zeiss Model VIa optical planetarium projector has brought the wonder of the night sky to countless visitors. The Zeiss Company no longer services the over 40 year-old model, and though its stars are as sharp as ever, and its skies deep in their dramatic blackness, its celestial motors have become weary, so it has been retired in favor of an ever-improving digital projection system that offers many advantages to meet modern programming needs. The Albert Einstein Planetarium theater itself is also closing as our multi-year renovation progresses through the Museum, but it will eventually reopen as a fully digital experience. Now that we are saying good-bye to its original projector, the Zeiss Model VIa, the question is, of course, how did it get here
It’s a tall order to sum up the past year at the National Air and Space Museum in a simple list. We’ve hosted astronauts and record breakers, we’ve moved and conserved dozens of artifacts as we transformed the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall (and discovered some incredible things in the process), and held programs that illuminated the impact of aviation and spaceflight on our everyday lives. Where would I even start? I propose a compromise: I’ll summarize ten of my favorite events of this past year, then I’m relying on you to suggest yours. Did you have an experience at the Museum this past year that should be on our list? We’re asking you to share your favorite Air and Space moments in the comments.
Today, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will officially open in our two IMAX theaters (and around the world). Our Airbus IMAX Theater at the Udvar-Hazy Center features one of the most advanced projection rooms in the world, with twin 4k laser projectors (always two, there are, for 3D presentations) and a 12-channel sound system. In a cinema not-so far, far away in downtown Washington, DC, our Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater will run Episode VII in IMAX’s original format: 70mm film. Star Wars will be the final 70mm feature shown at the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater before it too is converted to the state-of-the-art 4k laser system in mid-January. The IMAX empire was founded a long time ago (in the late 1960s) as an ultra-high resolution alternative to standard film. Our Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater (and the Museum) opened on July 1 1976. It wasn’t the first IMAX Theater in the nation, but it was close.
This past year, I had the opportunity to lead a largely volunteer team, with supervision from museum specialist Anne McCombs and curator David DeVorkin, on a major restoration project of the Museum’s Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). The ATM we worked on was a backup to the one used in 1973 on the Skylab space station to study high-energy solar activity.
It’s not a typical afternoon at work when you answer the phone and hear, "Hey, Dr. Neal. It's Kjell Lindgren calling from the International Space Station." Thus began a 15-minute surprise call from the ISS Expedition 44-45 NASA astronaut. Lindgren just wanted to say that he had with him the Museum flag and Gemini IV patch that he borrowed to take in his personal preference kit. He had unpacked them and shot some photos in the cupola for us. "I'm looking forward to bringing those back to you once I get back from my mission," he said.
Our conservation team had the pleasure of hosting Alan Eustace, former Google executive, engineer, and stratospheric explorer, this month in the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory. Eustace and his StratEx team are well known for their three world records including one for the highest altitude jump at 41,422 meters (135,899 feet) in 2014. The adventurer was in town giving a lecture about his historic jump and to donate to the Museum the suit, life support, and balloon equipment module he used during the jump.
We’re gearing up for one of our busiest times of the year—the holidays! Our team of Visitor Services staff love to talk to visitors during this time. We enjoy learning where you’re visiting from and what made you add our Museum to your already impressively full itinerary. You can find us at the Welcome Center in blue vests, eager to hear your stories.
Many families have their own Thanksgiving traditions that they faithfully recreate each November—Grandma’s stuffing, Aunt Jean’s serving platter, homemade cranberry sauce, or an insistence upon the canned sauce with ridges. After the meal, it may be nap time or football time. But the most common tradition is cooking and eating a big, fat Thanksgiving turkey. The collections in the National Air and Space Museum Archives provide a cornucopia of images and information on the history of aviation and spaceflight, some with moments of Thanksgiving cheer.
A few weeks ago we made a huge announcement that our Explainers Program would be expanding. The exciting news made us ponder: What does it mean to be an Explainer? So we sat down with two of them to find out.
American Archives Month kicks off in September with Ask An Archivist Day on Twitter. In preparation, our archivistsanswered some serious (and not so serious) questions. Discover how they became archivists, how they work with our staff, and what songs would be on the National Air and Space Museum Archives soundtrack if one existed.
If you visit the museum and step into the "Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall," you are in one of the most difficult spaces of the museum for our designers. There are many challenges faced by the design team in planning the hall's layout and contents.