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Exploration

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Wed, January 10 2018

Remembering Bruce McCandless II

Bruce McCandless II (1937-2017) is immortalized in this iconic photograph of an astronaut flying solo high above Earth. He was the first human being to do a spacewalk without a safety tether linked to a spacecraft.

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Astronaut Bruce McCandless II.
Fri, January 5 2018

Today, Mars is warmer than Earth. See how we compare.

The northeastern United States is experiencing record-breaking cold weather, with temperatures 20 to 30 degrees below average, according to the National Weather Service. Those are temperatures so frigid that parts of Mars—a cold, desert planet—are actually warmer than certain spots in the U.S. But how does Mars’ climate compare to that of our home planet?

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Viking Orbiter 1 Mosaic of Mars
Wed, January 3 2018

A Supersun (And Why It Doesn’t Mean Summer Weather)

If you looked up at the sky on January 1, you might have witnessed something spectacular--the Moon kicked off the year with the biggest full moon of 2018, a supermoon. But what about the Sun; did you know that it can be super, too?

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The “supersun” of January 2, 2018.
Mon, December 18 2017

The Study of Flying Saucer Sightings

The phenomenon of contact with aliens has its own history. It was not always the case that those contending they had an encounter with extraterrestrials described the experiences as coercive and frightening. On the contrary, in the decade and a half after the first reports of flying saucer sightings in 1947, most prominent stories of close encounters of the third kind described the aliens as inviting, friendly, and kind.

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A hypothetical alien spacecraft for the National Air and Space Museum’s “Life in the Universe” exhibit.
Tue, December 12 2017

How Astronauts Return to Earth

If you were freefalling back to Earth from space, would you want to rely on a couple of parachutes and some rockets to protect you from crashing? As crazy as it sounds, that is what allows astronauts aboard the Russian Soyuz capsules to safely return to Earth.

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Astronaut Randy Bresnik Aboard the ISS
Mon, December 11 2017

"We Choose to go to the Moon:" JFK's Moon Shot

As the American space program once again looks toward the Moon, we revisit President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 challenge to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.

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Apollo 11: Buzz Aldrin and the U.S. flag on the Moon
Wed, December 6 2017

How Iceland Helps us Understand Saturn’s Icy Moon

This past August, CEPS scientists traveled to Iceland to study geologic features known as pit chains, which form in a similar way to pit chains on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus.

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Saturn's Satellite Enceladus
Fri, December 1 2017

Celebrating Moments of Ingenuity

This month, the Smithsonian has been highlighting moments of ingenuity—trendsetters, groundbreakers, and individuals whose work embodies the spirit of innovation. As part of the Smithsonian Ingenuity Festival, the National Air and Space Museum celebrated the next generation of space and aviation pioneers, and those in history who paved the way.

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Ingenuity Festival
Thu, November 30 2017

The Fun of Finding Exoplanets

Using satellites and robotic rovers, we’ve learned quite a few details about the various planets orbiting our Sun. But what about other stars? What are their planets like? How weird do they get? It turns out, pretty weird.

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Kepler Mission
Wed, November 29 2017

Hydrogen-Powered Cars Hitting the Road

Sustainable energy has been at the heart of modern innovations large and small, from efficient light bulbs in living rooms to solar panels powering buildings. One of the newest breakthroughs in energy technology can often be found zipping around the streets in front of the Department of Energy (DOE) in Washington, DC—a car powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

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A fuel cell car being filled at a hydrogen pump.

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