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Exploration

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Tue, January 24 2017

Studying Long-Duration Human Spaceflight

A human mission to Mars will take anywhere from two and a half to three years. That is NASA’s best estimate, with each leg of the trip taking six months and including an 18 to 20 month stay on the Red Planet. That does not sound like an extremely long-term prospect until one considers the fact that the world record for the longest single stay in Earth orbit belongs to Soviet cosmonaut and physician Valeri Poliakov at 437 days and 18 hours aboard the Mir space station in 1994-1995. That is less than half the time it would take to complete a mission to Mars.  

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Mir Cosmonaut Views Discovery
Thu, January 12 2017

Astronomy Clubs Offer Telescope Clinics

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!

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Evening Observations
Fri, January 6 2017

Launching the Balloon Era

The balloon was a product of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Early modern experimenters like the Englishman Robert Boyle, studied the physics of the atmosphere. By the 18th century the focus shifted to the discovery of the constituent gases that make up the atmosphere. Early plans for flying machines inspired by the new discoveries were impractical, but quickly gave way to the first real balloons.

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Fanciful Flying Ship
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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Juno Mission to Jupiter
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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Astronomer Vera Rubin
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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Enterprise Model Components
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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Alan Eustace Suit
Thu, December 15 2016

Reaction Motors: 75th Anniversary

On December 18, 1941, 11 days after Pearl Harbor, four young members of the American Rocket Society (ARS)—James Wyld, John Shesta, H. Franklin Pierce, and Lovell Lawrence Jr.—officially incorporated Reaction Motors, Inc. (RMI), in New Jersey. The timing was no coincidence: it was one of many patriotic actions Americans took after suddenly finding themselves fighting a war. RMI, which was created to offer assisted-take-off rockets to the military aviation branches, was the first successful American company devoted to liquid-propellant rocketry. In its 31-year lifespan, it developed rocket engines of noteworthy importance, especially for pioneering X-planes. 

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James Hart Wyld
Wed, December 14 2016

An Unlikely Comparison: A Subway Car, the Enterprise, and Mir Space Station

“Doors Closing!” Those of us from the Washington, DC region recognize that phrase whenever we ride the Washington Metro. That recorded voice is typically followed by another stern voice, “STAND CLEAR OF THE DOORS!” It doesn’t seem to do much good; there are always one or two passengers who insist on standing in front of the doors, blocking the way for those who wish to get on or off.

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Inside the Mir Space Station
Thu, December 1 2016

Fifty Years of the Russian Soyuz Spacecraft

It is a remarkable fact that one of the two operational spacecraft that can carry humans into Earth orbit is celebrating its 50th birthday—the other is the Chinese Shenzhou craft. This week, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft turned 50 years old.

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Russian Soyuz

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