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Wed, December 20 2017

Top Five Stories of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, let’s revisit some of our favorite stories of the year: stories of solar eclipses, scientific women, the Spitfire, and spacecraft.

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Solar Eclipse
Wed, December 20 2017

Star Wars: A Merchandising Empire

In 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope, the first installment on George Lucas’s famous Star Wars film series, became one of the biggest box office hits of all time. It also gave rise to an innovative mass-marketing campaign for toys and other products that became an industry model.

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A set of Star Wars toys manufactured for the release of The Empire Strikes Back, 1980.
Mon, December 18 2017

The Study of Flying Saucer Sightings

The phenomenon of contact with aliens has its own history. It was not always the case that those contending they had an encounter with extraterrestrials described the experiences as coercive and frightening. On the contrary, in the decade and a half after the first reports of flying saucer sightings in 1947, most prominent stories of close encounters of the third kind described the aliens as inviting, friendly, and kind.

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A hypothetical alien spacecraft for the National Air and Space Museum’s “Life in the Universe” exhibit.
Sat, December 16 2017

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Today would have been visionary science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 100th birthday (1917-2008). In the many decades since his first writings, his renown and influence still reverberate, motivating a range of contemporary thinkers.

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Arthur C. Clarke in his Study
Fri, December 15 2017

How Star Wars Revolutionized Entertainment

The three ways that the Star Wars franchised changed the entertainment business. 

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An R2-D2 action figure issued for The Empire Strikes Back.
Thu, December 14 2017

That’s no moon. (It's also not the Death Star.)

With its spherical shape and piecemeal construction, it’s easy to see similarities between the Telstar satellite on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the infamous Death Star of the Star Wars films. Aside from a passing resemblance in design, both pieces of technology also address a larger question that has been a focal point for humankind in reality and fantasy: what does space mean for humanity?

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Telstar
Wed, December 13 2017

Light Speed Delivery: The Smithsonian’s R2-D2 Mailbox

On display in a galaxy not so far, far away: the National Postal Museum's R2-D2 mailbox, currently on view at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

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The R2-D2 mailbox on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Mon, November 6 2017

Exploring Duty and Social Class in World War I

La Grande Illusion is widely regarded as a masterpiece of French cinema and is often cited as one of the greatest films ever made. The story explores class relationships among a small group of French soldiers who are prisoners of war during World War I (WWI) and are plotting to escape. 

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The Grand Illusion Promotional Material
Wed, November 1 2017

Real Stories of LEGO's "Women of NASA"

A new generation of aspiring astronauts and researchers can find inspiration in the LEGO® “Women of NASA” set. These scientific pioneers are part of our collection here at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, too.

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The "Women of NASA" Lego collection.
Tue, October 31 2017

Astronauts’ Candy-Coated Space Snacks

What do astronauts do when they need a sugar fix? Chocolate candy and other desserts have been staples of the astronaut experience since the Apollo program. 

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NASA astronaut Loren J. Shriver eating floating chocolate candies.

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