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...
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...
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.
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.
These suits have come a long way. True, it’s only 37 miles from Suitland, Maryland to Chantilly, VA. On a good day, that’s less than an hour’s drive on the beltway. But today, like 42 years ago, these suits are worlds away from where they came.
When I was working on a collection of the aeronautical papers of Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906), the third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, I was struck by the wealth of detail in his research and the meticulousness of his note-taking. And as a man whose interests ranged from astronomy, astrophysics, aeronautics, and bird flight, mathematics, and the reckoning of standard time, Langley enjoyed observing and describing all sorts of processes — and then suggesting improvements.
Jobs made a donation to the Museum to support the Beyond the Limits Gallery. He also gave us a NeXT workstation, which we promised him we would use to develop a flight simulator for the gallery. But after some efforts, we eventually gave up. I regret we were not able to make his NeXT donation work. The NeXT computer was tricky to work with, but it did have its fans. One researcher at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland got one, and while we were struggling to program ours, he used his to write a program for the Internet that he called the World Wide Web. Maybe you’ve heard of it.