A new Mars rover has landed at the Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Surface System Test-Bed (SSTB) is nearly identical to the MER twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity that landed on Mars in 2004. What makes the SSTB different, however, is that it was designed for use on Earth.
The notation in the Museum’s artifact database is simple: “On loan.” But this artifact is a replica Nobel Prize. And its loan involves two government agencies, a crushed storage building, and a flight to the International Space Station. Let’s start at the beginning – literally. As in the Big Bang.
In the 1990s the United States collaborative space policy entered an extended period of transition from the earlier era of Cold War, one in which NASA has been compelled to deal with international partners on a much more even footing than ever before.
May 10 may ring a bell for fans of the 1970s television show The Six Million Dollar Man. On that day in 1967, a NASA research aircraft, the wingless M2-F2 lifting body, crashed in the California desert. A film clip of the crash opened the popular weekly show about the gravely injured fictional pilot, Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation the intrepid crew of the United Starship Enterprise repeatedly face the Borg, cyborgs intent on assimilating the biological creatures of the universe into their collective consciousness. Their meme, “resistance is futile,” serves as a convenient tagline for this ongoing plot device in the fictional series, but it also may foreshadow a more realistic future for humanity as we reach into space. When considering the far future and the potential for humans to colonize other bodies in the solar system and beyond, perhaps humanity will adapt to the space environment through modifications of the human body like those found on the Borg. This idea was first broached by scientists Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in a 1960 NASA study.
On April 28th, we will be awarding the National Air and Space Museum’s Trophy Award for Current and Lifetime Achievement. The Trophy was initiated in 1985 and has been given every year but one since then. This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., for a lifetime of service to aerospace, especially for his role in defining the responsibilities of Mission Control for human spaceflight at NASA. Anyone who has seen the Hollywood film Apollo 13 knows how crucial the mission controllers were in saving that mission and its crew from disaster. While the filmmakers may have exaggerated a few things, in that regard they were correct. Mission controllers—at first located at Cape Canaveral, later on in Houston—were critical to the success of all the human missions into space, and it was Kraft who determined their roles and responsibilities.
Every year as the anniversary of the first human spaceflight approaches, I receive calls inquiring about the validity of Yuri Gagarin’s claim as the first human in space. The legitimate questions focus on the fact that Gagarin did not land inside his spacecraft.
In addition to the “Apollo 11 Codices”, the National Air and Space Museum holds approximately 150 works by the artist Mitchell Jamieson (1915 – 1976). The “Apollo 11 Codices” exemplify Jamieson’s journalistic style of painting, which was one reason NASA brought him into its Fine Art Program. Aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, Jamieson sketched the seamen working to recover the capsule and crew from the successful Apollo 11 mission. Jamieson was known for his depictions of the onlookers at major events rather than the events themselves. This style allows the viewer to believe that they are there as part of the crowd, feeling the energy and excitement. Three of Jamieson’s works are traveling as part of the exhibition “NASA Art: Fifty Years of Exploration” organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in cooperation with NASA and the National Air and Space Museum.
One of the things that makes being an educator here great is our teaching collection. I’m lucky, I work with a curatorial and collections staff that considers our needs as educators and provides the public with deaccessioned items they can touch and examine up close. Our teaching collection currently contains real space food, shuttle tiles, bits of airplanes, meteorites, uniforms and other assorted items. However, not all the items are real; our most popular replica is the shuttle era space suit. The suit has been part of the Discovery Station Program for over ten years. It was purchased with a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and is part of the Living and Working in Space Discovery Station, our most popular station, largely because of the suit. The station gets an average of 40,000 visitors yearly, but that’s only a portion of the crowds the suit sees. It has also become a key object used for family days, story times and school tours.
In the summer of 2009 the United States celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the first Moon landing, Apollo 11. Amidst all of the hoopla virtually every news story, especially in the electronic world, made some comment about a supposedly rising belief that humans have never landed on the Moon. Why?