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Science & Engineering

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Fri, September 13 2013

An Extraordinary Journey: The History of Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds

The possibility of human mechanical flight held particular fascination for Leonardo da Vinci.  He produced more than 35,000 words and 500 sketches dealing with flying machines, the nature of air, and bird flight.  He produced one notebook, or codex, almost entirely on flight in 1505-1506, known as the Codex on Bird Flights.  In this codex, Leonardo outlined a number of observations and beginning concepts that would find a place in the development of a successful airplane in the early twentieth century.  This extraordinary document, exhibited outside of Italy only a few times, is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age gallery from September 13-October 22, 2013.  The story of the journey of the Codex on the Flight of Birds from the hand of Leonardo to the National Air and Space Museum exhibit is as fascinating as the document itself.

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Thu, August 22 2013

Leonardo da Vinci and Flight

Until the nineteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci was generally known only as a painter.  Little or nothing of his sculpture or engineering works survived, and his notebooks, the only surviving evidence of his insatiable curiosity and fertile mind regarding science and technology, were long hidden away, dispersed in private hands.  It was only after 1800 that the record of his intellectual and technical accomplishments, the thousands of pages of writings and drawings that we collectively refer to today as Leonardo’s codices, began to surface, be studied, and published. 

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Exhibition Banner for Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex on the Flight of Birds
Sat, July 6 2013

Solar Impulse: Rhyming with the Past, Looking to the Future

An unusual looking, four-engine, single-place, 200-foot wingspan airplane called Solar Impulse is making the same journey the pioneering Cal Rodgers did in 1911.

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Solar Impulse
Wed, June 26 2013

Check Out Our New Website for Some Fresh Air and Space

Monday, we launched the new National Air and Space Museum website. We’ve given the site an extreme makeover and are very excited to launch this revitalized online presence. This digital “renovation” was completed in-house by our Web & New Media Department with tremendous support from many contributors and stakeholders across the Museum.  

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National Air and Space Museum Website
Tue, June 4 2013

Solar Impulse

What flies using power from the Sun, at the speed of an ultralight, on wings longer than a Boeing 777 airliner? Answer: Solar Impulse! A team of Swiss entrepreneurs, engineers, pilots, and enthusiasts began to design the Solar Impulse in 2003 with the goal to demonstrate flying day-and-night powered only by the electricity that more than 11,000 individual solar cells generate. The electricity is stored in batteries when not used, and spin the propellers on four 10-horsepower electric motors when in flight.

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Solar Impulse
Thu, May 16 2013

GPS – A Hollywood Actress, a Player Piano, and Hip-Hop

Given the enormous popularity of GPS among civilian users, and the critical applications for the military, it is not surprising that a large body of literature has arisen about the origins of this remarkable technology. The curators of the new Time and Navigation exhibition discuss this history, and we have illustrated it with a few select artifacts, such as the engineering model of the Navy’s NTS-2 satellite, one of the key demonstrators of the technology that led to the deployment of the GPS constellation.

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Hedy Lamarr's patent
Tue, April 23 2013

The Abbreviated History of a Scientist (Namely, Myself)

My first word was JET, since we lived near an Air Force base and experienced sonic booms on a regular basis. My fascination with the heavens took off from there. Growing up, my family went camping and backpacking a lot, and one of my clearest memories of that time is looking up at a dark, dark sky and pointing out satellites to each other, those little moving points of light that are sometimes so faint I could only see them in my peripheral vision.

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Michelle Selvans
Mon, April 1 2013

Mars Rover Discovers Chocolate on Mars

Scientists at the National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies announced an astounding discovery at a press conference...

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Mars Landing Site Panorama
Fri, December 28 2012

Shiny Delivery this Holiday Season for the Time and Navigation Exhibition

Preparation of the upcoming Time and Navigation exhibition is in full swing, and objects are being installed in cases throughout the gallery.  In fact, the gallery became a little more shiny just in time for the holiday season thanks to a delivery from our friends at the Naval Research Laboratory.

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NTS-2 Satellite
Fri, November 9 2012

Stanley Moves In

On October 24, Stanley, winner of a historic robot race, left its home at the National Museum of American History aboard a flatbed truck and arrived safely at its destination, just seven blocks away. For the foreseeable future, Stanley will be here at the National Air and Space Museum, a centerpiece in the exhibition Time and Navigation:  The Untold Story of Getting From Here to There. The irony of the situation escaped no one.  Stanley, a driverless vehicle that had navigated 132 miles on its own to win the 2005 Defense Advanced Research Projects Grand Challenge, needed the help of scores of people AND a truck ride to get from there to here.  

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Stanley

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