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Behind the Scenes

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Fri, October 5 2012

Are You Sure You Want to Donate This?

“Are you sure you want to donate this?” I asked the intern. “This” was a slightly-used Smartphone, in perfect working condition. The intern, Rebecca Bacheller, was, indeed, willing to donate it. She heard that the Time and Navigation team wanted to disassemble one and showcase the current state of geolocation devices, enabled by the Global Positioning System and other advanced electronics. Our plan was to label the phone’s circuits, and show how they correspond to classical methods of navigation that had been practiced for centuries. Becky was excited that she would be credited in the label; she also had another motive: namely a reason to trade up to the newest version of the popular phone.

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Tue, September 11 2012

Langley Preservation Project: Thinking Outside the Box

In 1887, Samuel Pierpont Langley became the third Secretary of the Smithsonian.  Included among his many accomplishments is his founding of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 1890.  His research in the fields of astronomy, physics, and aviation remain a testament to his diverse...

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Fri, July 13 2012

Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” - July Update

This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011.This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011.

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Fri, June 8 2012

Ray Bradbury and the Lost Planetarium Show

When I learned Ray Bradbury died on June 5, 2012, two things came to mind.

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Fri, April 13 2012

Toilet Training

What is the first question most people ask about spaceflight?  “How do you go to the bathroom in space?” It’s a puzzlement. The Education staff has decided to seize a teachable moment.

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Fri, March 30 2012

Bringing Buzz Lightyear to the Museum

When Disney•Pixar approached the National Air and Space Museum about donating the Buzz Lightyear figure that had flown to the International Space Station for 15 months, I was delighted.  As the curator for the Museum’s social and cultural space artifacts, I have the unique job of getting to take toys seriously.

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Wed, March 14 2012

The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There

I work behind the scenes as part of a team of museum specialists supporting the upcoming exhibit Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There opening in March, 2013. I am the person who shepherds the objects themselves through the process. I photograph them, take...

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Fri, January 13 2012

Sweet Moments in a Sopwith

For those of us who study the very early history of the airplane, the sight and sound of a World War I rotary engine running is a thrill that leaves a lasting impression.  To fly in a rotary powered World War I airplane is a transformative experience.  A few weeks ago I was transformed.  I had...

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Sat, December 24 2011

The Santa Claus Express, Then and Now

In 1925, Mr. S. Claus was looking for a modern alternative to his old-fashioned reindeer-powered sleigh. Having once shown an interest in lighter-than-air flight in the form of hot-air balloons, Santa was favorably inclined when Goodyear came up with a solution — toy delivery via airship, in this case, Pilgrim I, renamed the Santa Claus Express for the occasion.

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Fri, December 23 2011

The Rutan Voyager

Twenty-five years ago, the staff of the National Air and Space Museum held its collective breath for nine days as a seemingly fragile, flying fuel tank made its way across oceans and continents in an attempt to become the first aircraft to fly around the world non-stop and unrefueled.

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