Today at 8:45 pm EDT (March 18, 2011, 12:45 am UTC), MESSENGER will become the first spacecraft ever to enter Mercury's orbit. With MESSENGER on the last leg of its journey, I’m reminded how long it has taken to get there. I watched the spacecraft launch in the early morning hours of August 3, 2004, almost six and a half years ago. Now after one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury, the spacecraft will catch up with Mercury again, but this time it will be captured by the planet. You might think as one of our closest neighbors in the Solar System it would take a lot less time to get into Mercury orbit – but because Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, at a distance where the influence of the Sun’s gravity is much greater, it is a challenge to reach and orbit.
“Remote sensing” is a term used to describe many different types of observations carried out at a distance. Aerial photos, satellite images of the Earth and planets, and telescope views of our solar system are all forms of remote sensing used to understand geology, climate, hazards, and changes over time.
President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, announced last year, calls for increased literacy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for all students. Increased STEM literacy means increased understanding of key scientific concepts, increased familiarity with technology and its applications, and increased exposure to the experimental process. As one of the world’s most popular museums, our stories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are engaging and relevant to old and young visitors alike.
On May 20, 1932, that Amelia Earhart set out in her Lockheed 5B Vega to become the first woman to fly nonstop and alone over the Atlantic Ocean. Departing from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and landing in Londonderry, Northern Ireland about 15 hours later, she also became only the second person to solo the Atlantic, the first being Charles Lindbergh in 1927. It was also her second trip across the Atlantic. Earhart first came to the public’s attention four years earlier, in June 1928, when she made headlines for doing nothing more than riding as a passenger--but she was the first female to do so. And although it didn’t matter to the public that she never touched the controls of the aircraft during the transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Wales, it mattered to Earhart.
The formal beginnings of the modern "pro-space movement"—really an extension of the ad hoc efforts to gain and sustain public support for an aggressive spaceflight agenda earlier led by Wernher von Braun and others—might be best traced to the June 1970 formation of the Committee for the Future (CFF), a small group of space activists, dreamers, and misfits. Meeting in the home of Barbara Marx Hubbard, daughter of the toy king, and her husband, artist-philosopher Earl Hubbard, in Lakeville, Connecticut, they proposed establishing a lunar colony.
The rich collections of space artifacts at the National Air and Space Museum provide a remarkable resource for scholars who wish to understand the special place that deep space exploration has held in the imagination of not just Americans but people around the world.
Baker, a squirrel monkey, perches on a model of the Jupiter missile that launched her into space on a sub-orbital flight, along with a rhesus monkey named Able, on May 28, 1959 - fifty years ago. Fruit fly larva and sea urchin eggs also accompanied Able and Baker, who both survived the flight; Able, though, died four days after the flight from a reaction to the anesthetic given during surgery to remove an electrode.