“Gene” Cernan will always be remembered as the “last man on the Moon”—at least until the next person walks there. As commander of Apollo 17, the final expedition of that program, he spent three days on the Moon with Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. Yet that is not all he accomplished in a storied astronaut career.
At the Observatory, we often get the question “What telescope should I buy?” But once you have one, what do you do with it? Maybe it’s still in the box, perhaps you found it frustrating to use, or maybe you’re ready to hunt for more advanced targets. If that sounds like you, it’s time to go to a telescope clinic!
Not to be upstaged by the balloonist Jacques Alexandre César Charles, who launched the first hydrogen balloon in on August 1783, the brothers Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier sent a sheep, a duck, and a rooster aloft in a wicker cage dangling beneath a hot air balloon. The flight took place on September 19, 1783, before an enormous crowd, including the Royal family, gathered in front of the royal Palace of Versailles.
The balloon was a product of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Early modern experimenters like the Englishman Robert Boyle, studied the physics of the atmosphere. By the 18th century the focus shifted to the discovery of the constituent gases that make up the atmosphere. Early plans for flying machines inspired by the new discoveries were impractical, but quickly gave way to the first real balloons.
NASA is building a brand new rocket for the future of human spaceflight. Astronaut Christina Koch, who graduated from NASA’s astronaut training program in 2015, helps us examine the Space Launch System rocket in more detail.
This huge wind tunnel fan was one of two fitted to NASA’s Full Scale Wind Tunnel at its research center in Hampton, Virginia. Built in 1931 for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, the predecessor to NASA), the wind tunnel was used to test most of America’s significant military aircraft of that era.
Also known as the 30 x 60 foot tunnel, the Full Scale Wind Tunnel could hold an aircraft with a wingspan of up to 12 meters (40 feet). Aerospace engineers used the wind tunnel’s accurate data to verify designs and make improvements. It was one of the most significant research tunnels ever built.
After decades of unsuccessful attempts to gain access, the public is now finally able to review the President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) from the Kennedy through Ford administrations. The collection was released in 2015 and 2016 and sheds lights on the intelligence and analysis the presidents received at the time. They are posted on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) website and are available to anyone to read.
As 2016 draws to a close, we take a look back at the highs and lows of the year. It was a busy year for the Museum with the opening of new exhibitions and celebrating our 40th anniversary. Most importantly, we were glad we could share the year with you, our fellow aerospace enthusiasts. Did you have a favorite moment from 2016? Let us know @airandspace.
News of Vera Rubin's passing on December 25 this year, in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 88, both saddened and relieved many of us at the Museum. She had suffered from dementia for a number of years, and there was sadness in her life, the loss of her husband Robert in 2008 and then of her daughter Judith in 2014.
But there was also great joy, and she had a knack for sharing that joy with all who came in contact with her. She shared the joy of her four children, all PhD scholars in science and mathematics. She also shared the joy of collaboration, not the least of which with astronomer W. Kent Ford, the ingenious instrument designer who developed a spectrograph that was made vastly more powerful with a new optical amplifier called the Carnegie Image Tube.