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Behind the Scenes

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Mon, January 2 2017

Presidential Briefings from 1960-70s Spotlight Soviet Missile and Space Programs

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. 

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Sat, December 31 2016

A Year in Review - 2016 at the National Air and Space Museum

As 2016 draws to a close, we take a look back at the highs and lows of the year. It was a busy year for the Museum with the opening of new exhibitions and celebrating our 40th anniversary. Most importantly, we were glad we could share the year with you, our fellow aerospace enthusiasts. Did you have a favorite moment from 2016? Let us know @airandspace.

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Fri, December 30 2016

Capturing the Essence of Astronomer Vera Rubin

News of Vera Rubin's passing on December 25 this year, in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 88, both saddened and relieved many of us at the Museum. She had suffered from dementia for a number of years, and there was sadness in her life, the loss of her husband Robert in 2008 and then of her daughter Judith in 2014.  But there was also great joy, and she had a knack for sharing that joy with all who came in contact with her. She shared the joy of her four children, all PhD scholars in science and mathematics. She also shared the joy of collaboration, not the least of which with astronomer W. Kent Ford, the ingenious instrument designer who developed a spectrograph that was made vastly more powerful with a new optical amplifier called the Carnegie Image Tube. 

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Fri, December 30 2016

Your Favorites Stories from 2016

Over the last year, we’ve shared more than 160 stories with you on our blog, and now featured prominently on our website. What were your favorites? According to our calculations, stories about Star Trek tipped the scales, but a few other topics squeezed their way onto our list. For 2016, here are our 10 most popular stories. 

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Thu, December 29 2016

Agents, Astronauts, and Aerobats: What I’ve Learned from Smithsonian TechQuest

I started my job as an Explainer at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on November 1, 2014. At the time, the Museum was a few months into its first edition of an alternate reality game, Smithsonian TechQuest: Eye in the Sky, and I was submerged right into the program.

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Tue, December 27 2016

Remembering Piers J. Sellers, Scientist and Astronaut

One of the great honors of working at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is the opportunity to interact with some of the few humans to orbit the Earth. Earlier in December, we mourned the loss of one of our dearest supporters and friends, Senator John H. Glenn. Now, we have again lost a featured speaker at the Museum, Dr. Piers J. Sellers, who worked at the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The following stories about working with Sellers are from two Space History Department curators, who found his unique spirit and passion for science inspiring and heartwarming.

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Tue, December 27 2016

Becoming a SR-71 Blackbird Pilot

How did you become a pilot for the SR-71 Blackbird? Buzz Carpenter knows. He started flying the SR-71 in 1975 after a week-long interview process that included an astronaut physical. Buzz shares what it was like becoming a Blackbird pilot, how pilots used their 580-degree windows to heat up their lunches, and how the aircraft got the nickname Habu.  

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Fri, December 23 2016

Apollo 11 Command Module Moves to Virginia

This week the Apollo 11 Command Module, Columbia, which carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their historic trip to the Moon, moved to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. To many of us at the Museum, the move seemed to have miraculously happened overnight. In truth, the move took a team of experts and months of meticulous planning to pull off. “This is something that’s unlike anything, at least for me, that I’ve ever moved,” said Anthony Wallace, a museum specialist in the Museum’s collections processing unit. Wallace explained that the spacecraft was not as complicated to move as some of the Museum’s aircraft, but the historical significance of the object heightened everyone’s awareness.

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Sat, December 17 2016

Air Mailing It In: Rediscovery in the Archives

There are many ways to find information about the collections held by the National Air and Space Museum Archives. There are finding aids with box and folder listings for over 100 collections.  We are providing access to more and more of our scrapbooks  and photographs.  And while we archivists would like to believe that we know everything about everything in the National Air and Space Museum collections, the truth is, with over 17,000 cubic feet of documents, we are frequently discovering, or, should we say, rediscovering items in our collections.  The stories behind some of these finds are fascinating!

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Fri, December 16 2016

Interview with Record Breaker Alan Eustace

This week, we placed on display at our Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, the suit that Alan Eustace wore on his record-breaking freefall jump. Eustace jumped from an altitude of 41,419 meters (135,890 feet) in October 2014 to capture the world record—previously held by Felix Baumgartner. Eustace, former senior vice president of knowledge at Google, was on hand to see the unveiling of the new display. He kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.   

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