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Science & Engineering

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Fri, October 7 2016

A Quick History of Launch Escape Systems

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezo’s private rocket company, passed an in-flight test of its launch escape system Wednesday—a method of detaching a crew capsule from a launch rocket. The successful test moves Blue Origin one step closer to its goal of carrying tourists into space. How to bring crews safely back to Earth in the event something goes wrong during a launch has always been a concern. Launch escape systems have been engineered into nearly all ventures into space.

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Artist Rendering of Launch Escape
Wed, September 28 2016

The History of Japan’s First Jet Aircraft

Earlier this year, our collections staff at the Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, moved the Nakajima Kikka from beneath the wing of the Sikorsky JRS flying boat in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar and out onto the floor beneath the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay. Moving the Kikka provides an opportunity to bring visitors closer to the last known example of a World War II Japanese jet aircraft and the only Japanese jet to takeoff under its own power—it also opened up space in the Hangar so that our team could install netting to deter birds. 

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Japanese Jet Aircraft
Tue, September 6 2016

What’s that Smell? Conserving Apollo 16 Film Transport

The Museum periodically performs a thorough, physical check of all our objects. We open panels and cases and closely inspect each object for any sign of deterioration due to light, humidity, vibration, or just the march of time. We always hope there are no surprises. But when conservator Robin O’Hern, gallery inventory coordinator Erin Ober, and their colleagues opened a large chamber in the Apollo to the Moon gallery, they got a shock; an acrid chemical smell.

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Conservation of Apollo Camera
Wed, August 31 2016

Catchin’ Zs in Micro-G 

It’s the little things we take for granted here on Earth; things like being able to lie down on a bed and not have it float away, or wake up without suffocating on our own exhaled carbon dioxide. While interning at the Museum, I’ve spent time researching several of those things we take for granted but astronauts in space cannot.

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Catchin’ Zs in Micro-G 

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Sleeping in Space
Thu, August 4 2016

On This Day: Phoenix Launched to Mars 

On this day in 2007, the Mars Phoenix lander was launched from a Delta II at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Phoenix flew to a site in the far northern plains of Mars where it analyzed components of the surface, subsurface, and atmosphere.

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On This Day: Phoenix Launched to Mars 

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Phoenix Mars Lander Launches
Wed, August 3 2016

On This Day: First Spacewalk Under a Shuttle

On this day in 2005, Discovery astronaut Stephen K. Robinson became the first person to do a spacewalk underneath a space shuttle orbiter.

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Space Shuttle Discovery's Underside
Fri, July 15 2016

Ten Artifacts That Transformed the World

“What is your favorite artifact?” When you work at a museum that is the question people always ask you. Most of my museum colleagues say it’s impossible to pick just one. I agree.

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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Wed, July 13 2016

Hand-building Radar Systems

Radar instruments play an important role in our study of Earth’s nearest neighbors, such as the Moon, Venus, and Mars. Radar can provide a range of information regarding the materials that make up the surface of a planet and offer a unique perspective on the underlying structure. To get the most out of our research it is important to have a fundamental understanding of the hardware that makes up a radar instrument. What better way to achieve this than build our own.

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Geophysicist Bruce Campbell with Hand-Built Radar
Wed, March 23 2016

Women Who Changed the Universe and How We Portray Them

One of the many threads in our Explore the Universe gallery is the changing role of women in astronomy over the past two centuries. In the present gallery, opened in September 2001, we examine how the role of women as astronomers has changed over time from assisting family members to leaders of research teams.

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Vera Rubin at the Flagstaff Telescope
Wed, March 16 2016

Robert Goddard and the First Liquid-Propellant Rocket

Ninety years ago today, on March 16, 1926, Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945) launched the world’s first liquid-propellant rocket. His rickety contraption, with its combustion chamber and nozzle on top, burned for 20 seconds before consuming enough liquid oxygen and gasoline to lift itself off the launch rack. The rocket took off from a snowy field outside Worcester, Massachusetts, reaching a height of about 12.5 meters (41 feet) and a distance of 56 meters (184 feet). It was smashed on impact. Goddard, his wife Esther, and a couple of assistants from Clark University, where he was a physics professor, were the only witnesses.

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Goddard 1926 Rocket

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