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Thu, June 9 2011

The Intern Perspective

When I went in for my interview at the National Air and Space Museum, I learned that I would be helping plan a family day. Not just any family day – this was a one-time event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Union Balloon Corps.

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Tue, January 18 2011

Eugene Ely and the Birth of Naval Aviation—January 18, 1911

In 1909, military aviation began with the purchase of the Wright Military Flyer by the U.S. Army.   The Navy sprouted wings two years later in 1911 with a number of significant firsts.  The first U.S Navy officers were trained to fly, the Navy purchased its first airplanes from Glenn Curtiss and the Wrights, and sites for naval aircraft operations were established at Annapolis, Md., and at North Island, San Diego, Ca.  But the most dramatic demonstration that the skies and the seas were now joined occurred on January 18, 1911, when Eugene Burton Ely made the first successful landing and take-off from a naval vessel.

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Fri, December 3 2010

Robert Goddard and the Smithsonian

A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, born in 1882, Goddard earned a B.Sc. from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1908) and an M.Sc. (1911) and a Ph.D. (1912) in physics from Clark University. After some important early work in electronics, the young professor began his work on rocketry and spaceflight. In 1914 he patented the design of both a multistage and a liquid propellant rocket and conducted an experiment demonstrating the ability of a rocket to function in space. The work was becoming ever more expensive, he explained to Abbot, and wondered if the Smithsonian could offer any support.

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Sun, September 12 2010

She Had a Dream: Mae C. Jemison, First African American Woman in Space

Have you ever had a dream of what you wanted to do in life? How about a wish that you hoped every day would come true?  Were you ever truly inspired by something or someone at an early age that shaped the course of your life? Living a lifelong dream does not come to many, but for Dr. Mae Jemison, space travel was always an area of fascination.

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Thu, August 19 2010

The Legend of Amelia Earhart’s Disappearance

The mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937 during her around-the-world flight attempt persists to the present day, and is especially alive and well on the Internet

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Thu, July 22 2010

Wiley Post

July 22, 2010, marks the 77th anniversary of Wiley Post’s 1933 solo flight around the world in the Lockheed 5C Vega Winnie Mae. This record-breaking flight demonstrated several significant aviation technologies. It used two relatively new aeronautical devices—an autopilot and a radio direction finder.

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Fri, July 2 2010

The Mystery of the Massively Parallel Processor

Several months ago, according to statistics that measure the public’s access to the museum’s collections via our web site, the one artifact on exhibit at the Udvar-Hazy Center that our online users visited the most was….the Massively Parallel Processor.

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Fri, May 28 2010

Musings on Charles A. Lindbergh on the 83rd Anniversary of the Transatlantic Flight

May 20-21, 2010, marked the 83rd anniversary of Charles A. Lindbergh’s historic solo, nonstop flight from New York to Paris. As a result of this feat, Lindbergh became an instant hero and celebrity. But how do we explain the overpowering public reaction to what some thought was a stunt? In his essay titled, “The Meaning of Lindbergh’s Flight,” published in 1960, historian John William Ward theorized that Lindbergh enabled Americans to look both forward to the technological future, which they feared and misunderstood, and backward to their pioneering past. A more cynical interpretation is that while Lindbergh’s flight was a truly courageous act, he became famous for being famous. Also, we know that his advisors crafted a tightly-managed persona and created a squeaky-clean, idealized public image of him. There is perhaps more than a grain of truth in each analysis.

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Mon, April 19 2010

Model Students

I teach an exhibition design course as an adjunct professor for the George Washington University’s Museum Studies program.  I tell my students I’ve got the best job in the world: designing exhibitions for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. They often ask what you need to know to be an exhibit designer and how they can get there, too.

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Mon, April 12 2010

Why Yuri Gagarin Remains the First Man in Space, Even Though He Did Not Land Inside His Spacecraft

Every year as the anniversary of the first human spaceflight approaches, I receive calls inquiring about the validity of Yuri Gagarin’s claim as the first human in space.  The legitimate questions focus on the fact that Gagarin did not land inside his spacecraft. 

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