When the Museum collected objects from Dr. Sally K. Ride's personal collection in 2013, it became clear that Dr. Ride privately say many connections between her history-making spaceflight and the state of American women in politics and public life. Several political buttons found in Dr. Ride's personal desk in her home study tell that story. Curator Margaret Weitekamp shares how these artifacts help tell the full arc of Dr. Ride's life.
We announced that the Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” will be a part of a national tour starting in October. Did you know this isn’t the spacecraft’s first tour? In 1970-71, NASA executed an ambitious public tour of Apollo 11 artifacts to 49 state capitals, the District of Columbia, and Anchorage, Alaska. The Command Module traveled nearly 26,000 miles for the tour. We share more interesting details of the first tour including which state had the largest crowds.
The last time the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia traveled the US was in 1970. Almost 50 years later, the historic spacecraft that helped take us to the Moon and back is headed out on the road for a nationwide tour. Following the tour, the Command Module will be placed on permanent display in the exhibition Destination Moon, scheduled to open in 2020 at the Museum in Washington, DC. The Museum’s conservation team will spend the next six months preparing the artifact for travel and display. Conservator Lisa Young shares what the next few months will look like and what she’s most interested in finding out about Columbia.
What do NASCAR and space travel have in common? Beyond reaching speeds that would give the rest of us whiplash, the two also share a very special fiber. Nomex® fiber is used in both spacesuits and racing suits. The fiber, made by DuPont™, is extremely flame-resistant and has many applications.
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.