Since the earliest days of flight, air racing has been an exciting motorsports activity. We have in our collection many of the aircraft that made history by winning races and setting records, like Steve Wittman’s Special 20 Buster, which lived two lives in air racing and proved to be an inspiration for an entire class of air racers.
Conservator Amanda Malkin has spent the last year examining, documenting, and conservering the Museum's 20 nineteenth century Chinese kites. Malkin shares how the traditional kites were constructed from the multiple thicknesses of split bamboo to the plant fibers that make up the Chinese paper. She also documents her conservation process for one of the treated kites, including the delicate process of removing brown craft paper tape.
Following the Apollo 1 fire, James Webb, the administrator of NASA, asked President Johnson to conduct an investigation of the tragedy. Johnson agreed and an independent review board was convened. Among the six factors found to contribute to the Apollo 1 fire, one was the lack of a quickly removable hatch. Curator Allan Needell uses hatches from the Museum’s collection to illustrate the changes that were made to the hatch system following Apollo 1 to improve safety.
The breakout movie Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women who worked as mathematicians at NASA. The story sheds light on the significant contributions of the three women—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—but also the broader impact that women had behind the scenes at NASA.
Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson all began their careers at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)—which later became NASA—working as “computers.” Computers were not what we think of them today. They were people, primarily women, who reduced or analyzed data using mechanical calculators—we’ve previously explored the role of computers in astronomy.
As a photographer at the Museum, my job is to make our artifacts stand out in images. This can be a challenge with the type of lighting in our galleries and the limited amount of time I have to shoot before the Museum opens. Over the years, however, I’ve found ways to optimize the lighting and my time to achieve my goals.
Captain Eugene Andrew Cernan died Monday, surrounded by his family in Houston, Texas. He was 82 years old. For more than half his life, he was known as the Last Man on the Moon, but he was also a devoted father and husband, a naval aviator and advocate, and a great friend to many. He remains a hero for the ages.
“Gene” Cernan will always be remembered as the “last man on the Moon”—at least until the next person walks there. As commander of Apollo 17, the final expedition of that program, he spent three days on the Moon with Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. Yet that is not all he accomplished in a storied astronaut career.
At the Observatory, we often get the question “What telescope should I buy?” But once you have one, what do you do with it? Maybe it’s still in the box, perhaps you found it frustrating to use, or maybe you’re ready to hunt for more advanced targets. If that sounds like you, it’s time to go to a telescope clinic!
NASA is building a brand new rocket for the future of human spaceflight. Astronaut Christina Koch, who graduated from NASA’s astronaut training program in 2015, helps us examine the Space Launch System rocket in more detail.
After decades of unsuccessful attempts to gain access, the public is now finally able to review the President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) from the Kennedy through Ford administrations. The collection was released in 2015 and 2016 and sheds lights on the intelligence and analysis the presidents received at the time. They are posted on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) website and are available to anyone to read.