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Spacecraft

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Thu, April 13 2017

Nap Time for New Horizons

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.

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New Horizons
Tue, March 21 2017

Cassini’s Grand Finale

The Cassini spacecraft has spent almost 13 years exploring the beautiful giant planet Saturn and its amazingly diverse moons. Cassini’s mission will end in September when it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere, but it will leave behind a wealth of knowledge and wonder.

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Saturn Captured by the Cassini Spacecraft
Fri, February 10 2017

A Closer Look at the Friendship 7 Spacecraft

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? 

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A Closer Look at the Friendship 7 Spacecraft

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Friendship 7 Heat Shield
Wed, December 14 2016

An Unlikely Comparison: A Subway Car, the Enterprise, and Mir Space Station

“Doors Closing!” Those of us from the Washington, DC region recognize that phrase whenever we ride the Washington Metro. That recorded voice is typically followed by another stern voice, “STAND CLEAR OF THE DOORS!” It doesn’t seem to do much good; there are always one or two passengers who insist on standing in front of the doors, blocking the way for those who wish to get on or off.

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Inside the Mir Space Station
Sat, August 13 2016

Six Stories from Developing the Lunar Module

Many are familiar with images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin standing beside the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle during the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. The story of how the LM was developed and tested is a little less familiar. Here are six highlights from a recent talk. 

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Testing the Lunar Module Signed Photograph
Thu, July 21 2016

Curator’s Dilemma: Displaying the Lunar Module

The Museum’s Lunar Module LM-2 represents a dilemma, at least for the current generation of Smithsonian curators and conservators. What stages of its history are most important, and how should it to be presented to the public?

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Lunar Module on Display
Fri, July 15 2016

Ten Artifacts That Transformed the World

“What is your favorite artifact?” When you work at a museum that is the question people always ask you. Most of my museum colleagues say it’s impossible to pick just one. I agree.

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Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Thu, March 3 2016

Investigating the Writing on Columbia’s Walls

I recently shared that we uncovered handwritten notes and markings inside the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia—the spacecraft that carried astronauts Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin into lunar orbit and home on their historic voyage of July 1969. As part of our collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office to create a detailed 3D model of the spacecraft, we had access to previously inaccessible areas for the first time in many years. We found notes written on a number of locker doors and even a small calendar used to check off days of the mission. We did our best to imagine the circumstances surrounding the creation of these markings. In the weeks that have passed, I have been working with an extraordinary team of experts to see what we can learn about each of the markings we documented, especially the more technical numerical entries. Today, we are posting the Apollo Flight Journal (AFJ) website, a detailed account of all the information we’ve gathered so far.

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Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia
Mon, January 4 2016

Models on the Move: Rehousing 800+ Models from the Collection

You may be surprised to know that in addition to the largest collection of authentic aviation- and space-related artifacts in the world, our Museum also has an impressive model collection. Our model collection contains more than 5,700 models of aircraft, balloons, and more. Nearly 1,100 of those models are on display at our Museum and the rest are in storage. Approximately 800 of those models share space with our staff on the third floor of the Museum in Washington, DC. But not for much longer. Last June, we began the time-consuming process of relocating the models from the third floor to storage at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The move was brought on by a multi-year project at the Museum in DC to upgrade the exterior of the building and the interior mechanical systems. Before construction begins, the models need to be moved. How do you relocate more than 800 delicate models?

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Creating Custom Model Supports
Tue, December 15 2015

The World’s First Space Rendezvous

Fifty years ago, on December 15, 1965, Gemini VI and VII met for the first rendezvous in space. This was not NASA’s original plan.

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Gemini VII Photographed by Gemini VI

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