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Popular Culture

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Mon, February 20 2017

Katherine Johnson, Hidden Figures, and John Glenn’s Flight

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. 

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Hidden Figures Movie Poster
Wed, February 8 2017

Celebrations in the Sky

No celebration in 19th century France was complete without a balloon in the weeks and months following its invention. A balloon ascent had the power to gather crowds of delighted spectators eager to see something they had never seen before. This balloon craze was satirized and documented in prints and engravings from the time. 

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Aeronaut Sophie Blanchard
Sat, February 4 2017

Baltimore Stadium’s Super Grand Opening

On Sunday, February 5, Super Bowl LI television broadcasts will feature aerial images of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Snoopy One may not have been hovering over Baltimore Stadium (also called Venable Stadium) for the 1922 Army-Marine football game, but photographer H.C. Robinson captured an aerial photograph of the stadium’s inaugural event from 549 meters (1,800 feet) above.

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Baltimore Stadium, 1922, Army-Marine Football Game
Sat, December 31 2016

A Year in Review - 2016 at the National Air and Space Museum

As 2016 draws to a close, we take a look back at the highs and lows of the year. It was a busy year for the Museum with the opening of new exhibitions and celebrating our 40th anniversary. Most importantly, we were glad we could share the year with you, our fellow aerospace enthusiasts. Did you have a favorite moment from 2016? Let us know @airandspace.

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Juno Mission to Jupiter
Fri, December 30 2016

Your Favorites Stories from 2016

Over the last year, we’ve shared more than 160 stories with you on our blog, and now featured prominently on our website. What were your favorites? According to our calculations, stories about Star Trek tipped the scales, but a few other topics squeezed their way onto our list. For 2016, here are our 10 most popular stories. 

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Enterprise Model Components
Sat, December 24 2016

Merry Christmas Astronauts

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.”

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Merry Christmas Astronauts
Wed, December 14 2016

An Unlikely Comparison: A Subway Car, the Enterprise, and Mir Space Station

“Doors Closing!” Those of us from the Washington, DC region recognize that phrase whenever we ride the Washington Metro. That recorded voice is typically followed by another stern voice, “STAND CLEAR OF THE DOORS!” It doesn’t seem to do much good; there are always one or two passengers who insist on standing in front of the doors, blocking the way for those who wish to get on or off.

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Inside the Mir Space Station
Thu, December 8 2016

What Would an Alien Spaceship Look Like?

What would a spacecraft carrying aliens to first contact with Earth look like? In Arrival (2016), director Denis Villeneuve’s creative imagination of alien ships arriving at Earth, 12 large, dark, smooth, elongated ships hover effortlessly, without any visible means of propulsion, over far-flung sites on Earth. In response, in the United States, the military and the State Department engage linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to help communicate with the inhabitants. The spaceships themselves present an appearance as inscrutable as the aliens themselves initially are. When the team led by Colonel GT Weber (Forest Whitaker) enters one of them, the roughly textured surfaces of the exterior and walls suggest wear or aging but offer no specific clues about the interior, the ship’s inhabitants, or, most important, their intentions. The resulting narrative of first contact, adapted as a screenplay by Eric Heisserer from a short story by Ted Chiang, proves satisfying, offering a thoughtful consideration of language, communication, and meaning.

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Mother Ship Model - Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Udvar-Hazy Ctr
Sun, December 4 2016

Spacecraft Cookie Jar

Although sources may argue on the origins of National Cookie Day, two things are sugar-crystal clear: cookies are darn good, and the internet seems to agree that today is the day to celebrate them. In the 1960s, David McMahon and his family could have celebrated properly with a batch of chocolate chip cookies safely stored in this Mercury Friendship 7 cookie jar.

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Mercury Friendship 7 Cookie Jar
Wed, November 23 2016

A Collector's Passion for Early Ballooning

As SpongeBob and Turkey shaped-balloons float their way down Central Park West for the traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning, we’re reminded of someone from the past who had a great interest in ballooning. Evelyn Way Kendall was a prolific collector of balloon-themed objects, and had perhaps the largest collection of such items in the nation. But what inspired her to amass such a collection?

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Evelyn Way Kendall

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