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
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. The Museum’s centerpiece presentation in observance of the 100th anniversary of World War I is Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War, a new exhibition in the Museum’s Flight in the Arts gallery. A collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the exhibition features largely never-before-seen artwork, produced by soldiers, that sheds light on World War I in a compelling and very human way.
Howard Hawks directed a film in 1930 whose influence can be seen in virtually every military aviation movie made since it premiered. The Dawn Patrol, with its dramatic aerial combat scenes and heroic and tragic pilot figures, is the father of all military aviation films. We will be screening The Dawn Patrol and providing commentary on March 17 as part of our Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, film series.
From January 2015 to 2017, Dava Newman served as NASA’s deputy administrator. Newman helped lead the organization forward and provided direction on policy and planning. How does someone attain such an important role?
When the Museum collected objects from Dr. Sally K. Ride's personal collection in 2013, it became clear that Dr. Ride privately say many connections between her history-making spaceflight and the state of American women in politics and public life. Several political buttons found in Dr. Ride's personal desk in her home study tell that story. Curator Margaret Weitekamp shares how these artifacts help tell the full arc of Dr. Ride's life.
We announced that the Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” will be a part of a national tour starting in October. Did you know this isn’t the spacecraft’s first tour? In 1970-71, NASA executed an ambitious public tour of Apollo 11 artifacts to 49 state capitals, the District of Columbia, and Anchorage, Alaska. The Command Module traveled nearly 26,000 miles for the tour. We share more interesting details of the first tour including which state had the largest crowds.
Airports. How much have you thought about airports? The anthropologist Marc Augé describes airports as “non-places” where travelers, despite location, encounter the same stores, chain restaurants, and security procedures. Museum Curator Jennifer Van Vleck disagrees. To her, despite their anonymous character, there is no other public place in which so many emotions are openly displayed—the joy of a great adventure, the sadness of saying farewell, or even the anxiety of moving.
The last time the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia traveled the US was in 1970. Almost 50 years later, the historic spacecraft that helped take us to the Moon and back is headed out on the road for a nationwide tour. Following the tour, the Command Module will be placed on permanent display in the exhibition Destination Moon, scheduled to open in 2020 at the Museum in Washington, DC. The Museum’s conservation team will spend the next six months preparing the artifact for travel and display. Conservator Lisa Young shares what the next few months will look like and what she’s most interested in finding out about Columbia.
What do NASCAR and space travel have in common? Beyond reaching speeds that would give the rest of us whiplash, the two also share a very special fiber. Nomex® fiber is used in both spacesuits and racing suits. The fiber, made by DuPont™, is extremely flame-resistant and has many applications.
The flight of Friendship 7 has gained new resonance thanks to the movie Hidden Figures. Curator Michael Neufeld examines the movie through the lens of a space historian. Neufeld admits that the movie deviates from history often, but the movie was good, well-acted, inspirational, and important. The movie, and the book it is based on, are destined to change our national narrative about the space program and the people who contributed to it.