Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr. is an appropriate name for a pioneering space explorer. Kraft did not explore space himself, but he made it possible for American astronauts to do so, from Mercury to the Space Shuttle. He was the primary inventor of the mission control concept, and implemented it during Project Mercury and after, including training a cadre of controllers and creating a worldwide tracking network.
From an outsider’s perspective, Lamar Dodd must have seemed like an unlikely choice for a commission to create paintings on the subject of space. Dodd was in the first group recruited for the NASA Art Program, which tasked artists with translating the cultural and scientific monumentality of the space missions to a national audience.
The NASA Art Program played an important role in representing the excitement and public interest in early spaceflight missions like Apollo 11. As we look back at key moments from the historic missions, we do so not only through photographs and oral histories, but through the eyes of artists as well.
Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb, who died in March 2019, will likely be remembered for her role campaigning for women to be considered as possible space travelers in the beginning of the space age, but the Museum’s upcoming exhibits will also showcase how important she was as an award-winning pilot who flew for years as a missionary in the Amazon.
Shaq does shark week. Ronda Rousey against a bull shark. Bear Grylls faces off with … yes … a shark. Shark Week is full of celebrities having close encounters with one of the ocean’s greatest predators, but did you know early astronauts were also prepared for their own tussle with the fearsome fish?
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn made history as the first American in orbit—a moment that changed history and reestablished the United States as a major force in the Space Race. Glenn's suit, specially designed and fitted just for him, helped make this achievement possible. The suit was adapted to act as life support, in case the Friendship 7 spacecraft malfunctioned.
The flight of Friendship 7 has gained new resonance thanks to the movie Hidden Figures. Curator Michael Neufeld examines the movie through the lens of a space historian. Neufeld admits that the movie deviates from history often, but the movie was good, well-acted, inspirational, and important. The movie, and the book it is based on, are destined to change our national narrative about the space program and the people who contributed to it.
We recently took new photographs of the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft following its conservation. This is the same spacecraft that John Glenn piloted into Earth orbit, an American first. The images reveal details of the spacecraft that can be easy to overlook when taking the capsule in as a whole. Are you able to pinpoint the circles in the capsule's heat sheild where NASA extracted samples to test durability? Or what about the eye chart inside the capsule that John Glenn was asked to use to test his vision?
In the early 1960s, the Project Mercury astronauts were celebrities in their own right, receiving bags of fan mail. One Christmas, Scott Carpenter received Christmas wishes featuring a model rocket, an American flag, and the sign, “Merry Christmas Astronauts.” Carpenter received a photo of the scene and a note that read: “Best wishes to Navy Lt. Malcolm S. Carpenter from Mrs. L. T. Burns…Wichita Falls, Texas.”