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Cold War

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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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Soviet Air Defense Map
Wed, August 3 2016

Peace Through Strength: Two Cold War Weapons

This fall is the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit, a landmark meeting held in Iceland's capital between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

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Reykjavik Summit
Tue, July 19 2016

Charles Blair: Civilian Adventurer Turned Cold War Navigator

Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles F. Blair, an aviator made famous by his solo flight over the North Pole, whose real accomplishment is often overlooked.

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Charles F. Blair in Excalibur III
Tue, October 27 2015

Bridge of Spies: An Opportunity to Bust Myths about the U-2 and the Capture of Gary Powers

I recently attended a screening of Bridge of Spies, a new movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. Purportedly, Bridge of Spies was inspired by events surrounding the 1962 exchange of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederick Pryor for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel. The movie event was sponsored by Virginia’s Cold War Museum which was co-founded by Francis Gary Powers, Jr., who was also in attendance and served on a Q&A panel after the film.

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Lockheed U-2B in Flight
Wed, March 18 2015

How Two Cold War Spacewalks Came to a Common Technological Solution

Wednesday, March 18 marks the 50th anniversary of the first extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, of cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov.

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Leonov's Training Suit
Fri, January 2 2015

Smithsonian TechQuest: Eye in the Sky

The year is 1967. The government has requested your skills to help locate a downed plane somewhere near hostile territory. After getting the mission details in the briefing room, you embark on a journey through the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, looking carefully at various artifacts and discovering clues that will lead you to the downed plane. Test your powers of observation, your problem-solving skills, and your decision-making abilities as you take on the role of intelligence analyst. The game will engage you through hands-on activities and secret codes that lead to an ultimate conclusion. The fate of top-secret technology and missing pilots is in your hands.

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Smithsonian TechQuest
Fri, August 1 2014

More Than Just an Internship

What truly captivated me this summer was feeling a personal connection to the history of aviation. I’ve always been interested in the topic, largely because my dad was a Marine Corps fighter pilot. Until this summer I hadn’t had a chance to truly dive into the subject, and finally learning about what my dad did as a pilot has given me a new perspective on his career. He flew F -18s for most of his pilot days, but he also flew F-4 Phantoms, the same plane used for simulator rides here at the museum. I’m sure piloting the simulator isn’t nearly as thrilling (or difficult) as flying a real fighter jet, but it gave me a small taste of my dad’s everyday job. As soon as I hopped out of the ride, I emailed my dad to tell him how exciting my three minutes of pretend-jet-flying had been. He responded by telling me, not for the first time in my life, that he had the “best job in the world.” I never understood the excitement he felt until now.

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Casey Tissue
Tue, March 18 2014

The X-15

During the 20th century, airplane design was driven by the mantra of “flying faster and higher.”

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North American X-15 in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall
Fri, November 15 2013

The Soviet Buran Shuttle: One Flight, Long History

This month marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the sole launch of the Soviet space shuttle Buran. The idea of a reusable space plane has existed for decades among space enthusiasts and predated the idea of a rocket carrying humans into Earth orbit.

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Medal, Bronze, Buran
Sat, October 20 2012

My Cuban Missile Crisis

Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area during the 1960s was... interesting - History would have a way of occasionally butting into an otherwise typical suburban boyhood.

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Cuban Missile Crisis

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