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Wed, February 1 2017

Advice from an Exoplanet Expert

Hunting for exoplanets is an exciting field as more and more worlds are discovered. Many of these newly discovered planets are in the "Goldilocks Zone" where conditions may be right to support life. Dr. Hannah Wakeford is on the cutting edge of this research.

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Dr. Hannah Wakeford
Mon, January 30 2017

Reduce Reuse Rocketry

"Spaceflight never became routine." As national priorities changed, NASA could no longer afford another project like Apollo, which utilized single-use rocket engines. The Space Shuttle was a completely different type of launch vehicle from those used in Apollo and earlier projects. The space shuttle was a reusable launch vehicle, designed for economy and efficiency.

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Space Shuttle Main Engine
Fri, January 27 2017

Four Fantastic Aeronauts

Intrepid men and women who earned their livelihoods in the sky—the aeronauts—emerged as well-known public figures during the 19th century. They were a new breed of aerial showmen, capturing headlines with spectacular ascents and long distance voyages. The Italian Vincenzo Lunardi, Englishmen James Sadler and Charles Green, and the American Thaddeus S. C. Lowe were among the best-known members of this new profession.

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Vincenzo Lunardi Engraving
Fri, January 27 2017

Learning from Tragedy: Apollo 1 Fire

Following the Apollo 1 fire, James Webb, the administrator of NASA, asked President Johnson to conduct an investigation of the tragedy. Johnson agreed and an independent review board was convened. Among the six factors found to contribute to the Apollo 1 fire, one was the lack of a quickly removable hatch. Curator Allan Needell uses hatches from the Museum’s collection to illustrate the changes that were made to the hatch system following Apollo 1 to improve safety.

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Unified Hatch
Thu, January 26 2017

Hidden Figures and Human Computers

The breakout movie Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women who worked as mathematicians at NASA. The story sheds light on the significant contributions of the three women—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—but also the broader impact that women had behind the scenes at NASA. Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson all began their careers at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)—which later became NASA—working as “computers.” Computers were not what we think of them today. They were people, primarily women, who reduced or analyzed data using mechanical calculators—we’ve previously explored the role of computers in astronomy.

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Human Computers
Wed, January 25 2017

Photographing Aircraft in the Museum

As a photographer at the Museum, my job is to make our artifacts stand out in images. This can be a challenge with the type of lighting in our galleries and the limited amount of time I have to shoot before the Museum opens. Over the years, however, I’ve found ways to optimize the lighting and my time to achieve my goals.

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C.202 Folgore
Tue, January 24 2017

Studying Long-Duration Human Spaceflight

A human mission to Mars will take anywhere from two and a half to three years. That is NASA’s best estimate, with each leg of the trip taking six months and including an 18 to 20 month stay on the Red Planet. That does not sound like an extremely long-term prospect until one considers the fact that the world record for the longest single stay in Earth orbit belongs to Soviet cosmonaut and physician Valeri Poliakov at 437 days and 18 hours aboard the Mir space station in 1994-1995. That is less than half the time it would take to complete a mission to Mars.  

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Mir Cosmonaut Views Discovery
Mon, January 23 2017

Near-Instantaneous Communication Across the Ocean

Launched in July 1962, Telstar communications satellite provided a near instantaneous ability to have transatlantic communication between the U.S. and Europe. In the midst of the Cold War, Telstar was not just a new communication ability. It introduced geopolitical and societal questions that would become part of a larger cultural context about the meaning of television. Credits: NASA photo of a Thor/Delta 316 launch with the Telstar 1 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 17B, July 10, 1962. 

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Near-Instantaneous Communication Across the Ocean

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Telstar
Tue, January 17 2017

Tips for Visiting During Inauguration

Are you planning on visiting the Museum on Inauguration Day? If so, here are a few tips for your visit on Friday, January 20.

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B-36 Aircraft Fly Over Truman's 1949 Inauguration
Tue, January 17 2017

Remembering Capt. Eugene Cernan

“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.

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Gene Cernan in Flight during the Apollo 17 Mission

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