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Popular Culture

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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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Mon, October 16 2017

Bringing WWI Air Battles to the Big Screen

The Blue Max (based on the 1964 critically acclaimed novel of the same title by Jack D. Hunter) brings a new complexity to the flying ace protagonist.

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Thu, October 5 2017

Blade Runner’s Spinners: The Shape of Things to Come?

The “Spinners” flying cars from Ridley Scott's 1982 darkly dystopian Blade Runner film reappear in the sequel, Blade Runner 2049. But are there any hopes for flying cars that can operate from rooftops by 2049?

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Fri, September 29 2017

Rum Runners to Cocaine Cowboys: Barry Seal and the Legacy of Aerial Smuggling

The use of aircraft in smuggling was not simply a niche application, but a booming business through Prohibition and beyond, and one of the first drivers of aerial regulations.

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