The flight of Friendship 7 has gained new resonance thanks to the movie Hidden Figures. Curator Michael Neufeld examines the movie through the lens of a space historian. Neufeld admits that the movie deviates from history often, but the movie was good, well-acted, inspirational, and important. The movie, and the book it is based on, are destined to change our national narrative about the space program and the people who contributed to it.
We recently took new photographs of the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft following its conservation. This is the same spacecraft that John Glenn piloted into Earth orbit, an American first. The images reveal details of the spacecraft that can be easy to overlook when taking the capsule in as a whole. Are you able to pinpoint the circles in the capsule's heat sheild where NASA extracted samples to test durability? Or what about the eye chart inside the capsule that John Glenn was asked to use to test his vision?
Hunting for exoplanets is an exciting field as more and more worlds are discovered. Many of these newly discovered planets are in the "Goldilocks Zone" where conditions may be right to support life. Dr. Hannah Wakeford is on the cutting edge of this research.
Following the Apollo 1 fire, James Webb, the administrator of NASA, asked President Johnson to conduct an investigation of the tragedy. Johnson agreed and an independent review board was convened. Among the six factors found to contribute to the Apollo 1 fire, one was the lack of a quickly removable hatch. Curator Allan Needell uses hatches from the Museum’s collection to illustrate the changes that were made to the hatch system following Apollo 1 to improve safety.
The breakout movie Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women who worked as mathematicians at NASA. The story sheds light on the significant contributions of the three women—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—but also the broader impact that women had behind the scenes at NASA.
Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson all began their careers at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)—which later became NASA—working as “computers.” Computers were not what we think of them today. They were people, primarily women, who reduced or analyzed data using mechanical calculators—we’ve previously explored the role of computers in astronomy.
A human mission to Mars will take anywhere from two and a half to three years. That is NASA’s best estimate, with each leg of the trip taking six months and including an 18 to 20 month stay on the Red Planet. That does not sound like an extremely long-term prospect until one considers the fact that the world record for the longest single stay in Earth orbit belongs to Soviet cosmonaut and physician Valeri Poliakov at 437 days and 18 hours aboard the Mir space station in 1994-1995. That is less than half the time it would take to complete a mission to Mars.
Captain Eugene Andrew Cernan died Monday, surrounded by his family in Houston, Texas. He was 82 years old. For more than half his life, he was known as the Last Man on the Moon, but he was also a devoted father and husband, a naval aviator and advocate, and a great friend to many. He remains a hero for the ages.
“Gene” Cernan will always be remembered as the “last man on the Moon”—at least until the next person walks there. As commander of Apollo 17, the final expedition of that program, he spent three days on the Moon with Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. Yet that is not all he accomplished in a storied astronaut career.
NASA is building a brand new rocket for the future of human spaceflight. Astronaut Christina Koch, who graduated from NASA’s astronaut training program in 2015, helps us examine the Space Launch System rocket in more detail.
As 2016 draws to a close, we take a look back at the highs and lows of the year. It was a busy year for the Museum with the opening of new exhibitions and celebrating our 40th anniversary. Most importantly, we were glad we could share the year with you, our fellow aerospace enthusiasts. Did you have a favorite moment from 2016? Let us know @airandspace.
Over the last year, we’ve shared more than 160 stories with you on our blog, and now featured prominently on our website. What were your favorites? According to our calculations, stories about Star Trek tipped the scales, but a few other topics squeezed their way onto our list. For 2016, here are our 10 most popular stories.