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Tue, July 19 2016

Charles Blair: Civilian Adventurer Turned Cold War Navigator

Today we celebrate the birthday of Charles F. Blair, an aviator made famous by his solo flight over the North Pole, whose real accomplishment is often overlooked.

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Charles F. Blair in Excalibur III
Fri, January 2 2015

Smithsonian TechQuest: Eye in the Sky

The year is 1967. The government has requested your skills to help locate a downed plane somewhere near hostile territory. After getting the mission details in the briefing room, you embark on a journey through the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, looking carefully at various artifacts and discovering clues that will lead you to the downed plane. Test your powers of observation, your problem-solving skills, and your decision-making abilities as you take on the role of intelligence analyst. The game will engage you through hands-on activities and secret codes that lead to an ultimate conclusion. The fate of top-secret technology and missing pilots is in your hands.

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Smithsonian TechQuest
Wed, November 12 2014

A New High Altitude Jump

On April 1, 2014, the National Air and Space Museum opened an exhibition featuring the pressurized Red Bull Stratos gondola that carried Felix Baumgartner to a record altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) over Roswell, New Mexico, and the pressure suit and parachute that protected him during the long fall back to Earth. Not long after, I had a visit from an old friend, balloonist Julian Nott, whose record-setting pressurized hot air balloon gondola was also coming into the Museum’s collection. One of the pioneers of modern ballooning, Julian has established 79 world ballooning records for altitude, distance, and time aloft during a long and extraordinary career.

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Alan Eustace at Take-Off
Tue, October 28 2014

More than Just a Map

You never know what you’ll uncover once you do a little digging. Museum Technician Tom Paone discovered something quite remarkable from what at first appeared to be a simple map.

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Colonel William F. Small Portrait
Mon, February 24 2014

Twenty Years of GPS and Instrument Flight

On February 16, 1994, a significant milestone in American aviation occurred when the Federal Aviation Administration certified the first GPS unit for use in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) operations. Twenty years later, GPS has become the dominant form of en route navigation as well as the primary technology for guiding aircraft in low-visibility approaches to landing.

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GPS 155
Sat, December 21 2013

The Unique Flight of Apollo 8

The second Apollo mission to carry astronauts into space provided NASA and the world with an unprecedented view of life on Earth. From the start, with its planned mission to fly three astronauts around the Moon and back, Apollo 8 became a touchstone for how people understood the process of spaceflight.

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Apollo 8 Command Module
Fri, December 13 2013

Sydney the Dog

The newest addition to the Time and Navigation gallery is a life-size bronze statue of a dog named Sydney. Sydney now reclines amiably on the deck of the exhibition’s ship, and our youngest visitors are finding him appealing. On a recent morning, one toddler was observed patting the statue’s head and squealing, “Puppy!” Another clambered onto Sydney’s back and went for an imaginary ride.

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Sydney the Dog
Thu, October 24 2013

Finding History on eBay

One question I’m often asked as a curator is, “do you ever find anything interesting for the museum on eBay?” The answer is yes. This is the story of a particularly interesting find.

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Closeup of Ruhland and Dresden
Thu, May 16 2013

GPS – A Hollywood Actress, a Player Piano, and Hip-Hop

Given the enormous popularity of GPS among civilian users, and the critical applications for the military, it is not surprising that a large body of literature has arisen about the origins of this remarkable technology. The curators of the new Time and Navigation exhibition discuss this history, and we have illustrated it with a few select artifacts, such as the engineering model of the Navy’s NTS-2 satellite, one of the key demonstrators of the technology that led to the deployment of the GPS constellation.

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Hedy Lamarr's patent
Fri, May 10 2013

On Assignment for Time and Navigation

What’s missing when you sit in front of a computer all day? Adventure! Luckily, three Time and Navigation photography missions took me across the country last year, giving me the chance to escape the office.

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Ashley Hornish in the Mojave Desert

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