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
Early in June, staff of the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility slowly and carefully moved the center section of the Horten H IX V3 all-wing jet fighter from storage into the restoration and preservation shop.
When I trained to be an Explainer, I learned the basics: daily activities, expectations, etc. What I didn’t learn, however, was all the job hazards. Interacting with visitors and doing demonstrations sound pretty safe, right?... Not quite.
Early on the morning of March 1, 2004, a small band of preservation specialists consisting of Anne McCombs, Steve Kautner, and Ed Mautner walked into the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. ...
Nearly 50 years ago, John Glenn purchased a camera at a drug store that served as the first astronomical experiment performed by a human in space. That three-orbit voyage for Glenn included two cameras, one the Ansco he purchased and the other a Leica supplied by NASA. The flight not only kicked off decades of orbital experiences for U.S. astronauts, but also science experiments, observations, and thousands of rolls of film and digital files created through hand-held photography. The results of those experiments and the photos taken are what people left on Earth use even today to understand human spaceflight.
May 6th marks the anniversary of the tragic end of the airship Hindenburg, destroyed by fire as it came in for a landing at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, in 1937. Last year, to commemorate the anniversary, we posted the story of Anne "Cookie" Chotzinoff Grossman, who, on October 9th, 1936, spotted the Hindenburg in flight from her Connecticut schoolyard. She took off in hot pursuit along with her brother Blair, but the giant airship got away from them; Cookie and Blair trudged back to school, and Cookie was made to write “I will not follow the Hindenburg” on the blackboard a hundred times.
On December 7, 1941, a US Navy squadron consisting of ten Sikorsky JRS-1 amphibious seaplanes was on station in the Hawaiian Islands. Shortly after the Japanese attack that Sunday morning, the planes were launched in an effort to locate enemy submarines and ships near Oahu.
How did you get an airplane inside the building? Is there life on other planets? What EXACTLY is GPS and how does it work? Why in the world is that in this museum? We hear these questions every day. There’s so much that goes on in museums that people just don’t understand. And there are a lot of interesting artifacts tucked into smaller galleries that visitors simply don’t notice. Then there are the GREAT stories behind every artifact – stories that just don’t fit on a label.
Sixty-two suits. Toni Thomas and I came up with that number after several days counting spacesuits and flight suits on stepladders in the Environmental Storage Room, Building 24 (ESRB24) at the Paul E. Garber Facility. These were the pressure suits in the National Air and Space Museum spacesuit collection that still needed soft, conservation-correct storage mannequins. That was June 2009. Amanda Young had just retired after the successful publication of her and Mark Avino’s book Spacesuits: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection. The book culminated fifteen years of hard labor on her part to document, reorganize and standardize the preservation, storage and exhibit conditions for the Museum's spacesuit collection.