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Science & Engineering

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Wed, October 14 2015

Apollo Guidance Computer and the First Silicon Chips

As the Apollo program took form in the early 1960s, NASA engineers always kept the safety of their astronauts at the fore in light of the enormous risks they knew were inherent in the goal of landing on the Moon and returning safely. Wherever possible, they designed backup systems so that if a primary system failed the crew would still have the means to return home safely. Sometimes creating a backup was not always practical. For example, the Service Module’s engine needed to fire while the crew was behind the Moon to place them in a trajectory that would return them to Earth. There was no practical backup if the engine failed. But even in that instance a plan was worked out to use the Lunar Module’s (LM) engine as a backup. D

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Inside of a Silicon Chip
Sat, October 10 2015

A (Tech)Quest for Inspiration

Only a few short months after I began my job as coordinator of the Explainers Program at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the opportunity to help create a new program was on my desk....

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Sat, September 5 2015

Conserving Wiley Post’s Helmet

The experimental helmet, worn by famed American aviator Wiley Post to test the limits of high-altitude flying, can normally be seen at the Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle) on the National Mall in Washington, DC. When white corrosion deposits were noticed on the metal, however, the helmet was removed for examination and treatment. It was sent to the Museum’s Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory in Chantilly, Virginia.

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Post Helmet After Conservation
Sat, July 25 2015

A Triage Treatment for Apollo Biomedical Sensors

Much like medical triage, conservation triage analyzes the risk posed to an object and the hazards associated with not taking immediate action. Triage conservators ask questions such as: Can the object be handled safely by staff and researchers? Will the degradation of the object continue if it is not treated immediately? What treatment can we do, with the resources at hand, to keep this object stable as long as possible?

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Applying Acrylic Resin
Thu, June 25 2015

The NACA/NASA Full Scale Wind Tunnel

The Scene: A new wind tunnel, the NACA Full Scale Tunnel at the NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia The Time: May 27, 1931 The Action: A Navy Vought O3U-1 “Corsair II” –the whole airplane—is mounted in the wind tunnel.

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Technician Checks Fan Motor in Full Scale Wind Tunnel
Tue, May 12 2015

Did the Brooklyn Dodgers help get us to the Moon?

In his memoir Moon Lander, Grumman project manager Thomas Kelly describes the exhilaration at Grumman for winning the contract to build what became the Lunar Module (LM), followed by trepidation when the design team realized the severe weight restraints they had to work under in order to get two astronauts safely to the lunar surface and back to lunar orbit. At the outset, Grumman and NASA worked with an initial estimate of 30,200 pounds, which was within the limits of the Saturn V’s booster capability; but this began to grow ominously as the work progressed. 

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Armstrong in LM Simulator
Sat, May 9 2015

Alexander de Seversky: Influential World War II Air Power Advocate

With all the activities going on lately about World War II aircraft, I’d like to tell the story of Russian naval pilot Alexander de Seversky, that country’s top naval ace in World War I, who later became one of the most influential proponents of the use of strategic air power in warfare — and Disney film star — in the United States. De Seversky was born in Triflis, Russia on June 7, 1894, to an aristocratic family. He learned how to fly by age 14 from his father who owned one of the first airplanes in Russia. De Seversky earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Imperial Russian Naval Academy in 1914 — at the outbreak of World War I — and became a second lieutenant in the Imperial Naval Air Service the following year.  

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Seversky SEV-3M WW
Thu, April 30 2015

The Last Hours of MESSENGER

Today, the MESSENGER spacecraft will succumb to the influence of gravity and impact on the surface of Mercury

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Mercury’s Enterprise Rupes
Sat, March 14 2015

Reflections on Pi Day, March 14

Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, has a special place in the annals of space exploration, having among its graduates 23 (and counting) astronauts, including Gus Grissom, Neil Armstrong, and a host of shuttle crew members, who have flown on more than 40 shuttle missions.

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Clarence A. Waldo
Fri, February 27 2015

Vance Marchbanks' Contribution to Public Health Policy on Sickle Cell Disease

Dr. Vance Marchbanks, Jr. is famous in both the black history and aerospace history communities for his accomplishments as one of the first in his field. He was one of two black MDs to complete the United States Army Air Corps School in Aerospace Medicine at the beginning of World War II. His fame continued through his association with the 99th and 301st Fighter Groups, who later became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

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Vance H. Marchbanks Jr.

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