The dangers of ballooning were apparent to aeronauts and the general public. From the early 1800s, attempts to fly over water too often ended in disaster or a narrow escape. Some of the best known aeronauts on both sides of the Atlantic set off across a large body of water never to be seen again. The daring rescue of balloonists from water was a favorite subject with artists and engravers. The vision of a “lost balloon” vanishing over the horizon became a metaphor for the uncertainties of life in the turbulent 19th century.
Hell’s Angels, along with Wings and The Dawn Patrol, is considered one of the three great early aviation films that defined the genre. The movie featured authentic aerial combat scenes, innovative camera work, and incredible miniature effects. Upwards of 50 aircraft, nearly half actual World War I airplanes, were assembled for the production, and some 75 pilots were employed to fly the aerial sequences and pilot the camera planes.
The latest film in our Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen film series the story of the American Expeditionary Force’s arrival in France in World War I. Based on the real-life exploits of New York City’s 69th Infantry Regiment, The Fighting 69th features several real-life characters.
Before humans flew into space, dogs, chimpanzees, and flight-test dummies led the way. Ivan Ivanovich, who flew in the Soviet Korabl-Sputnik program in the early 1960s, was one such dummy. In a heady atmosphere of Cold War tension, Soviet secrecy, and uncertainty about the dawning space age, garbled retellings of Ivan's extraordinary story helped foster one of the most tenacious Space Age conspiracy theories: The Lost Cosmonaut Theory.
Howard Hawks directed a film in 1930 whose influence can be seen in virtually every military aviation movie made since it premiered. The Dawn Patrol, with its dramatic aerial combat scenes and heroic and tragic pilot figures, is the father of all military aviation films. We will be screening The Dawn Patrol and providing commentary on March 17 as part of our Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, film series.
When the Museum collected objects from Dr. Sally K. Ride's personal collection in 2013, it became clear that Dr. Ride privately say many connections between her history-making spaceflight and the state of American women in politics and public life. Several political buttons found in Dr. Ride's personal desk in her home study tell that story. Curator Margaret Weitekamp shares how these artifacts help tell the full arc of Dr. Ride's life.
We announced that the Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” will be a part of a national tour starting in October. Did you know this isn’t the spacecraft’s first tour? In 1970-71, NASA executed an ambitious public tour of Apollo 11 artifacts to 49 state capitals, the District of Columbia, and Anchorage, Alaska. The Command Module traveled nearly 26,000 miles for the tour. We share more interesting details of the first tour including which state had the largest crowds.
What made the balloon such a key graphic element in political and social satire for over one century? Was it the bulbous shape, or the fact that balloons are wayward craft that tend to go where the wind blows, in spite of the aeronaut’s best efforts? Whatever the reason, the great comic artists of the 18th and 19th century turned to the balloon time and time again in order to poke fun at people and events. The meaning of many of the political satires, the inside joke, is often lost on us today. If any of our friends out there can enlighten us as to the story behind one of these mysteries, we welcome the assistance!