In 1896, Ethiopians had turned back an Italian invasion at Adwa (Adowa), serving as an example of a Black-led country’s defiance of Europe. Taking inspiration from Ethiopia’s long history as an independent Black nation, two Black aviators—Hubert Julian and John C. Robinson—were drawn to Ethiopia by the events of 1935.
Seventy-three seconds after launch, Challenger was destroyed on live TV. We did not understand what we saw: Our teachers could not explain it, our parents were unlikely to have better answers, and few of us probably spent time paying attention to what transpired afterwards in terms of the official investigation. The Challenger disaster symbolizes a moment in our personal and shared memories when we felt great sorrow together.
Over the summer we collaborated with the artist Diplo on a companion album to his new record MMXX. It’s called Under Ancient Skies and it’s available wherever you stream music. But we also created an audio tour of the night sky for a series of small, outdoor concerts Diplo performed.
On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger was set to launch on STS-51-L, on a mission to observe and track Halley’s Comet—73 seconds after launch, the shuttle disintegrated, ending the lives of all seven crew members. The disaster was most heavily felt in the space community and even in the realm of the cultural arts. Particularly, famed science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke and astronaut Sally K. Ride had their own respective responses to this tragedy.
After the 1950s, fictional depictions of space travel needed to suggest conceivable ways to cross interstellar distances to seem plausible. Some authors suggested faster-than-light drives, hyper drives, jump drives, worm holes, and black holes.
Wernher von Braun was a superb engineering manager, an excellent pilot, and a decent pianist. In the U.S., he became a national celebrity while speaking and writing about spaceflight. But we don’t think him as a science-fiction writer.
The search for life is a pillar of Mars exploration. But our search isn’t only confined to the planets of our solar system. Radio telescopes search for signals of intelligent life from far away planets, orbiting other stars. In his story, “The Great Silence,” science fiction author Ted Chiang features the Arecibo telescope as he considers the significance of the animal life that surrounds it.
Astronautical engineer and astronomer George Robert Carruthers, a name well-known and dearly regarded in the space science community, and a good friend of the National Air and Space Museum, passed away on Saturday, December 26 after a long illness.
As I have been scanning the correspondence that science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke received over his lifetime, a constant staple of correspondence always crops up near the end of a year. These being the abundant number of Christmas cards Clarke would get around the holidays.