What’s missing when you sit in front of a computer all day? Adventure! Luckily, three Time and Navigation photography missions took me across the country last year, giving me the chance to escape the office.
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.
My first word was JET, since we lived near an Air Force base and experienced sonic booms on a regular basis. My fascination with the heavens took off from there. Growing up, my family went camping and backpacking a lot, and one of my clearest memories of that time is looking up at a dark, dark sky and pointing out satellites to each other, those little moving points of light that are sometimes so faint I could only see them in my peripheral vision.
Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum don’t often get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes. This is especially true in terms of the labor that goes into collecting and caring for our artifacts. Many may wonder where all the air and space stuff (we call them artifacts) comes from. The answer is from a variety of places, including the United States Air Force, NASA, and the general public. These artifacts vary; some are large (aircraft and spacecraft) but many are relatively small (aircraft equipment or military or commercial airline uniforms and insignia, for example, or items of popular culture—air and space toys and games).
How did three staff members at the National Air and Space Museum get to collaborate on the Museum’s first children’s book, Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery? The short answer is that this is an extraordinary place to work. And when people are as generous with their time and talents as my collaborators have been, neat stuff happens.
My coworkers and I are fortunate: every day, we get to touch pieces of history that few others ever lay hands on and seldom see. Why are we so privileged? We are helping to move some of the National Air and Space Museum’s collections from their previous storage site to new facilities at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
On January 10, 2012, the National Air and Space Museum Archives Department officially opened its new reading room at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to public researchers. We welcomed six researchers that day, including two who had scheduled a trip from Germany to coincide with our grand opening.
The central theme of the Time and Navigation exhibition is the connection between timekeeping and determining position. During the development of the exhibition, we realized it was not enough to show devices for accurately measuring time and position. We wanted visitors to grasp why it's true that "If you want to know where you are, you need an accurate clock."