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Human Spaceflight

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Fri, January 27 2017

Learning from Tragedy: Apollo 1 Fire

Following the Apollo 1 fire, James Webb, the administrator of NASA, asked President Johnson to conduct an investigation of the tragedy. Johnson agreed and an independent review board was convened. Among the six factors found to contribute to the Apollo 1 fire, one was the lack of a quickly removable hatch. Curator Allan Needell uses hatches from the Museum’s collection to illustrate the changes that were made to the hatch system following Apollo 1 to improve safety.

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Unified Hatch
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
Fri, November 4 2016

Your Captions: Incoming Call

What’s one way to lighten the mood before being blasted 186 kilometers (116 miles) into Earth orbit? Some humor. On May 5, 1961, Shepard appeared to be keeping the mood light as this photo captures. 

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Alan Shepard with Telephone
Fri, October 28 2016

Your Captions: Just Hanging Around

File this next photo from our “Caption This” series under bizarre work-place duties. The captions you submitted were spot on. The truth is this man is no circus performer, he’s a test subject. In 1966-1967, NASA Langley developed OMEGA (One-Man Extravehicular Gimbal Arrangement). OMEGA was created to simulate weightlessness and permitted its tester unlimited movement. Tests were conducted using OMEGA with subjects in flight suits and pressure suits to determine the best operation techniques and refinements to the device.

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OMEGA Testing
Wed, August 31 2016

Catchin’ Zs in Micro-G 

It’s the little things we take for granted here on Earth; things like being able to lie down on a bed and not have it float away, or wake up without suffocating on our own exhaled carbon dioxide. While interning at the Museum, I’ve spent time researching several of those things we take for granted but astronauts in space cannot.

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Catchin’ Zs in Micro-G 

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Sleeping in Space
Thu, August 4 2016

The Art of Air and Space

Throughout the Apollo program, a range of artists were given unrestricted access to NASA’s various facilities in order to collect usable reference materials. Many of these artworks were donated to the Museum and form a valuable lens through which to examine the cultural impact of twentieth century spaceflight and aviation.

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Grissom and Young
Wed, July 27 2016

The Mystery of Grey Spots on Apollo Glove

The last time Neil Armstrong's gloves and helmet were displayed, in 2012, visitors asked us about “grey spots” on the right glove. We're conducting research and examining historical documentation to find out why.

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Armstrong Glove Under UV
Wed, June 15 2016

Inside the Sally K. Ride Papers – Now Open for Research

Last October, we announced that we had acquired the collection of Sally K. Ride, the first American woman in space. Now, we can share that the archival portion of the collection has been processed and is available for research! See our finding aid for more detailed information.

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Signed Portrait of Sally Ride
Thu, March 17 2016

NASA’s Early Stand on Women Astronauts: “No Present Plans to Include Women on Space Flights”

In 1962, young Linda Halpern decided to fulfill a school assignment by inquiring about how she could pursue a dream. Required to write a letter for a grade-school class, Ms. Halpern addressed hers to President John F. Kennedy, asking what she would need to do to become an astronaut.

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Letter From NASA
Thu, March 3 2016

Investigating the Writing on Columbia’s Walls

I recently shared that we uncovered handwritten notes and markings inside the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia—the spacecraft that carried astronauts Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin into lunar orbit and home on their historic voyage of July 1969. As part of our collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office to create a detailed 3D model of the spacecraft, we had access to previously inaccessible areas for the first time in many years. We found notes written on a number of locker doors and even a small calendar used to check off days of the mission. We did our best to imagine the circumstances surrounding the creation of these markings. In the weeks that have passed, I have been working with an extraordinary team of experts to see what we can learn about each of the markings we documented, especially the more technical numerical entries. Today, we are posting the Apollo Flight Journal (AFJ) website, a detailed account of all the information we’ve gathered so far.

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Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia

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