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Space

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Wed, November 16 2016

Revealing Mercury’s Great Valley

At their core, planetary missions are about exploration, pure and simple. It’s hard to beat the excitement of discovering a new feature on the surface of a planet that’s being imaged by spacecraft for the first time. I had this experience many times during the MESSENGER mission.

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Mercury’s great valley revealed in new digital elevation model
Sun, November 13 2016

The Super Duper Moon

On Monday, November 14, the Moon will be full, and also near its closest approach to Earth. It’s a “supermoon,” appearing slightly bigger than a normal full Moon.

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Micromoon vs Supermoon
Fri, November 11 2016

Stories of Service

Today is Veterans Day, a day in which we honor our veterans, past and present, for their service and sacrifice. One aspect of the Museum’s mission is to commemorate the past. Today, especially, we are doing that by telling the stories of our veterans. We have created a space—Stories of Service—where you can share your experiences as a veteran, or on behalf of the veteran in your life

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Volunteer Richard L. World War I
Fri, November 4 2016

Your Captions: Incoming Call

What’s one way to lighten the mood before being blasted 186 kilometers (116 miles) into Earth orbit? Some humor. On May 5, 1961, Shepard appeared to be keeping the mood light as this photo captures. 

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Alan Shepard with Telephone
Tue, November 1 2016

Spaceflight to Parade Float

Visitors to the newly renovated Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall may miss one particular satellite hanging amongst historical heavyweights such as the Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis and the Lunar Module LM-2. This object, however, with its distinctive blue solar panels deployed, is a full-scale engineering prototype of Mariner 2, the first spacecraft to radio useful scientific data from the vicinity of another planet, Venus.

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The Venus of Pasadena Rose Bowl float
Fri, October 28 2016

Your Captions: Just Hanging Around

File this next photo from our “Caption This” series under bizarre work-place duties. The captions you submitted were spot on. The truth is this man is no circus performer, he’s a test subject. In 1966-1967, NASA Langley developed OMEGA (One-Man Extravehicular Gimbal Arrangement). OMEGA was created to simulate weightlessness and permitted its tester unlimited movement. Tests were conducted using OMEGA with subjects in flight suits and pressure suits to determine the best operation techniques and refinements to the device.

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OMEGA Testing
Thu, October 20 2016

Reports of UFOs: 1947 Roswell Incident

In this 2011 Ask an Expert talk, Dr. Roger Launius explores the 1947 Roswell Incident, an event that entangled the United States Army in UFO conspiracy theories that persist to this day.

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Roswell Daily Record
Fri, October 7 2016

A Quick History of Launch Escape Systems

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezo’s private rocket company, passed an in-flight test of its launch escape system Wednesday—a method of detaching a crew capsule from a launch rocket. The successful test moves Blue Origin one step closer to its goal of carrying tourists into space. How to bring crews safely back to Earth in the event something goes wrong during a launch has always been a concern. Launch escape systems have been engineered into nearly all ventures into space.

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Artist Rendering of Launch Escape
Thu, October 6 2016

Insights from a Planetary Spacesuit Designer

Pablo de León has been in the space business for nearly 20 years, working as a space project manager and spacesuit designer. De León will be speaking with visitors at the Museum in Washington, DC this Saturday at the Hispanic Heritage Month: Innovators in Aviation and Space Heritage Family Day as part of the Smithsonian Latino Center’s ¡Descubra! Meet the Science Expert series.

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Testing the NDX-1 Spacesuit
Wed, September 28 2016

The Incredible, Still Shrinking Mercury

Being a member of a science team of a planetary mission is like being a starter on a major league baseball team—you’re in the game. That’s how I felt as a member of the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. During the final months of MESSENGER’s time in orbit, before the fuel on the spacecraft was expended and crashed on Mercury’s surface, a decision had to be made—keep the spacecraft in its nominal mapping orbit as long as possible or let the spacecraft altitude drift lower to get as close to the planet as possible.

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Topography of the Northern Hemisphere of Mercury

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