On the evening of April 1, 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower saw the first image sent back from space by the Television InfraRed Observation Satellite (TIROS) 1 weather satellite—shaped, as some quipped, like “an enormous hatbox.” As he considered the grainy black and white image of cloud cover over the eastern United States and Canada, he remarked “the Earth doesn’t look so big when you see that curvature.
Sometimes, seeing isn't believing until you take something apart. On the 60th anniversary of the launch of Explorer 1 by the United States, I'm prompted to recall the most valuable lesson I ever learned about what it means to be a curator.
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?
If you were freefalling back to Earth from space, would you want to rely on a couple of parachutes and some rockets to protect you from crashing? As crazy as it sounds, that is what allows astronauts aboard the Russian Soyuz capsules to safely return to Earth.
Did you know that some of the coolest photos of Earth from space were not actually taken by satellites? Many were taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In fact, part of the astronaut training program focuses on how to take photos in space.
This month, the Smithsonian has been highlighting moments of ingenuity—trendsetters, groundbreakers, and individuals whose work embodies the spirit of innovation. As part of the Smithsonian Ingenuity Festival, the National Air and Space Museum celebrated the next generation of space and aviation pioneers, and those in history who paved the way.