Topic

Research

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Thu, January 10 2013

The Archives Department’s First Anniversary at the Udvar-Hazy Center

On January 10, 2012, the National Air and Space Museum Archives Department officially opened its new reading room at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to public researchers.  We welcomed six researchers that day, including two who had scheduled a trip from Germany to coincide with our grand opening.

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Archives Reading Room
Mon, December 17 2012

Flying Low and Slow Over a Lava Flow

This September, Larry Crumpler, a research colleague at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and I were able to fly in the back seats of two weight-shifting ultralight aircraft during a two-hour flight over the McCartys lava flow in central New Mexico.

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Jim Zimbelman
Thu, November 22 2012

This Pie is out of this World

It’s said that “art imitates life,” but how about baked goods imitating geologic formations!

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Goethe Pie Tectonic Ghost Craters
Tue, October 23 2012

“A Company of Scholars”: A Brief History of the National Air and Space Museum’s Fellowship Program

In the past, fellows have written about everything from spaceflight in the Soviet Union to the "Nisei" stewardesses on Pan American Airways. If you were to apply for a fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum, what would you research?

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Book cover: Red Phoenix Rising
Thu, October 18 2012

Investigating the Apollo Valley

In July, I joined a team from Johnson Space Center and elsewhere in investigating the geology of Apollo Valley with rover-deployed scientific instruments. Apollo Valley is a former 1960s Apollo-era astronaut training site at 3,505 meters (11,500 feet) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The project was funded by NASA's Moon and Mars Analog Mission Activities Program, which funds projects that simulate scientific, robotic, and human aspects of exploring the Moon and Mars, with the goal of designing the most effective, efficient, and well-integrated future missions. 

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Apollo Valley, Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Wed, March 7 2012

Climate Change in the Solar System

We are all familiar with the climate on Earth: the seasons, the range of surface temperatures that are just right for being a water world, the oxygen we breathe, the ozone layer that protects us from UV radiation. In short: habitable. So what other bodies in the Solar System might be (or might have been) habitable, and why aren’t they today? Mars probably comes to mind, and for good reason. Mars has the most similar climate to our own, with water ice caps at the poles, seasonal snow, and dust storms. This is because Mars has a similar axial tilt as the Earth, which creates similar seasonal temperature variations.

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Viking Orbiter 1 Mosaic of Mars
Fri, November 25 2011

Assessing the Spin-offs of Spaceflight

Our lives are enhanced by technologies developed through the research and development supported by the necessities of spaceflight. NASA has documented since 1976 more than 1,300 technologies that have benefited U.S. citizens, improved our quality of life, and helped to advance the nation’s economic welfare. Of course, much has been made over the years of what NASA calls “spin-offs,” commercial products that had at least some of their origins as a result of spaceflight-related research. Most years the agency puts out a book describing some of the most spectacular, and they range from laser angioplasty to body imaging for medical diagnostics to imaging and data analysis technology. Spin-offs were not Tang and Teflon, neither of which was actually developed for the Apollo program.

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Sun, July 3 2011

A New Curiosity

There is a strange looking car parked in the west end of the National Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington, DC. For now, it is only visible behind its security screen from the second floor landing above. From that vantage, the vehicle’s six wheels, robotic arm, mast, and other protrusions are clearly visible. But since this is the Air and Space Museum, it must be more than just a normal car. Soon the barriers will be gone and the public will be able to view the vehicle up close and personal. And what they will see is a model of the next Mars rover, NASA’s 2011 Mars Science Laboratory. The rover, dubbed “Curiosity” will be launched to Mars later this year and will begin its mission to explore whether places on the Red Planet were ever habitable.

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NASA Mars Rover Curiosity at JPL
Fri, April 8 2011

What Can You Really See From Space?

Most people know that satellites in orbit do useful things such as collect images of the Earth's surface. At the National Air and Space Museum I use satellite images in my job to understand changes in the Earth's land surface.

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IKONOS Image
Thu, March 17 2011

MESSENGER on Final Approach to Mercury

Today at 8:45 pm EDT (March 18, 2011, 12:45 am UTC), MESSENGER will become the first spacecraft ever to enter Mercury's orbit. With MESSENGER on the last leg of its journey, I’m reminded how long it has taken to get there.  I watched the spacecraft launch in the early morning hours of August 3, 2004, almost six and a half years ago.  Now after one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury, the spacecraft will catch up with Mercury again, but this time it will be captured by the planet.  You might think as one of our closest neighbors in the Solar System it would take a lot less time to get into Mercury orbit – but because Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, at a distance where the influence of the Sun’s gravity is much greater, it is a challenge to reach and orbit.

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MESSENGER

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