Just like you conduct experiments in your science class, astronauts do experiments while in space. The zero gravity of space allows astronauts to carry out experiments that would not be possible in the gravity of Earth. There are more than 300 experiments currently happening aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
When John Grant was only 16, the Viking landers were sent to Mars. Today, Grant helps lead the operation groups controlling two Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, as a geologist at the National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. Recent data collected by Curiosity and published in Science describes an ancient lake environment located at Gale Crater—an environment Grant, a coauthor of the article, believes holds further clues to whether there was ever life on the Red Planet.
In late March, I traveled to Puerto Rico to conduct observations of Venus using the Arecibo Observatory telescope. It was the second time I traveled to the observatory to make radar measurements of the surface of Venus. Even though it was my second time there, the size and capability of the telescope still impressed me; the telescope is largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed.
When the Museum’s Apollo Lunar Module (LM-2) moved to a prominent place in our Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall last year, it was an opportunity for us to examine the artifact in fine detail. We spared no effort to preserve, refurbish, and document the iconic object before it went on display in our central gallery in 2016. With careful research and close examination of photography from the Apollo 11 mission, we have been able to refine the accuracy of the external appearance of our LM-2 to more and more closely represent the appearance of LM-5 (Eagle) on the Moon.
Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22. An annual event begun in 1970, it is, in the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, “devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature.” Before and since that first occasion, spaceflight and the environmental movement have been deeply entwined, shaping how we think about Earth as home as well as our responsibilities to sustain that home.
On April 7, 2017, New Horizons entered a 157-day-long hibernation. New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe and is NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. After operating steadily for almost two and a half years, the spacecraft and its systems deserve this much-needed break.
Before coming to work at the National Air and Space Museum, I taught for 15 years at Liberty Public Schools near Kansas City, Missouri. When I was teaching, I would write to anyone I thought I could get a response from, including celebrities, asking them for advice for students. My favorite responses were always from astronauts.
In the late 1950s, the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine and the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recruited deaf people for weightlessness, balance, and motion sickness experiments.
You may know of the first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova) or the second (Svetlana Savitskaya). But do you know the name and the story of the third female cosmonaut? Elena Kondakova may have not been the first woman in space, but she was the first woman to enter the cosmonaut team-in-training program with male classmates. She set the precedent of mixed-gendered selections that exists in Russia today.
Before humans flew into space, dogs, chimpanzees, and flight-test dummies led the way. Ivan Ivanovich, who flew in the Soviet Korabl-Sputnik program in the early 1960s, was one such dummy. In a heady atmosphere of Cold War tension, Soviet secrecy, and uncertainty about the dawning space age, garbled retellings of Ivan's extraordinary story helped foster one of the most tenacious Space Age conspiracy theories: The Lost Cosmonaut Theory.