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Exploration

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Wed, June 15 2016

The First Pictures from the Moon’s Surface

Half a century ago, in February and June 1966, robotic spacecraft first landed on the Moon. I vividly remember those events from my days as a 14-year-old space buff. On February 3, the Soviet Union’s Luna 9 thumped down on the vast lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), after a number of failed attempts. A Soviet stamp shows its landing configuration, which used air bags to cushion its fall. On the right is the first picture transmitted, from the turret camera in the cylinder on top.

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The first image of the Moon's surface
Mon, March 7 2016

Observing the Surface of Venus with the Arecibo Telescope

This past summer I had the opportunity to operate the world’s largest single-dish telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

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Venus Impact Crater Ejecta
Fri, February 26 2016

A New Moon Rises: An Exhibition Where Science and Art Meet

Scientific images can rival those of the most talented artists, a fact that is now on display in A New Moon Rises at our Museum in Washington, DC. Take, for example, an image of Reiner Gamma, a beautiful and strange feature on the Moon that looks as though a tadpole has been painted across the flat surface of Oceanus Procellarum. The image demonstrates the phenomenon of lunar swirls – bright patterns that some scientists believe may result from the solar wind striking the lunar soil. A localized magnetic field anomaly may have given this swirl its peculiar shape. The photo is densely packed with scientific information.

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Far Side Mosaic
Mon, February 8 2016

The Monkey Who Nearly Flew Around the World

Happy Chinese New Year! To celebrate the Year of the Monkey we wanted to share one special monkey from our collection. Maggie, a stuffed spider monkey, has an especially interesting story.

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"Maggie"
Wed, December 23 2015

Warm Greetings from a Cold Country – Christmas in Antarctica

One of my biggest joys of the winter season is receiving holiday cards from my friends and family. On the other hand, I am terrible about sending cards myself. Imagine being Dick Konter, who had promised over 800 people that he would write to them while on a polar expedition to Antarctica!

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Card from the Byrd Expedition
Tue, December 15 2015

Sharkskin and Spacesuits

Thinking outside the box to solve aeronautics challenges

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Tue, December 15 2015

Can you discover Planet X?

The search for a new planet

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Tue, December 1 2015

Remembering Astronautics and Museum Leader Frederick Clark Durant III

We have a tradition at the National Air and Space Museum of recognizing the passing of aerospace leaders with a temporary memorial panel displayed for a time on the Museum floor.

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Fred Durant, Tom Crouch and Werner Von Braun
Thu, November 12 2015

Transcribing Apollo Stowage Lists With Help from Volunteers

Apollo artifacts have begun to receive increased scrutiny in light of recent discussions about returning humans to the Moon and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo missions. What did astronauts of the 1960s and 1970s bring back from the Moon? What was left behind? And how can we verify the authenticity of any of those objects if they have been or will be recovered?

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Diagram from Apollo Handbook
Fri, September 18 2015

Earth is Shaping the Shrinking Moon

Planetary science is one of those fields of research where you can always count on being surprised. The remarkable terrain of Pluto and Charon in images being sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft certainly qualifies. One of my all-time big surprises is from a recent discovery on an object much closer to home—the Moon.

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Prominent lobate fault scarp in Vitello Cluster

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