The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union ushered in the end of the cold war. The US withdrew its Pershing II missiles and the Soviet Union withdrew its SS-20s. Both countries were unwilling to use nuclear weapons, understanding the consequences of doing so—the Pershing II was a hundred times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. As a part of the treaty, both countries agreed that some of the missiles would be put in museums so that the public could see them and understand their history. A Pershing II and SS-20 are on display at the center of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. One of the Museum’s most engaging programs in observance of the hundredth anniversary of the First World War is Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, a year-long film series showing Hollywood’s finest feature films on World War I.
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?
The Boeing 747 is one of the most significant airliners in history. The airliner popularized air travel and ushered in a new era of affordable airfare. In the early 1970s many of 747s were outfitted with extravagant amenities like bars, piano lounges, and even spiral staircases. The economic reality of such amenities eventually hit the airlines. They realized they could make a lot more money by replacing lounges with seats.
No celebration in 19th century France was complete without a balloon in the weeks and months following its invention. A balloon ascent had the power to gather crowds of delighted spectators eager to see something they had never seen before. This balloon craze was satirized and documented in prints and engravings from the time.
Mariner 10 may have been the last of the Mariner spacecraft series, but it was the first to complete many new tasks. It was the first U.S. spacecraft to visit two planets - Venus and Mercury - in one mission. It was also the first to broadcast images of Venus back to Earth. The greatest achievement of the spacecraft was its use of a gravitational assist: Mariner 10 used Venus’ gravitational field to slingshot itself towards Mercury, saving fuel and picking up speed.
On this day in 1957, Perry Young Jr. became the first African American pilot to fly a regularly scheduled passenger route for a U.S. airline. The press and community leaders hailed the flight as a significant step forward on the path to desegregation. For Young, it marked a professional milestone after years of persistence in the face of discrimination.
On Sunday, February 5, Super Bowl LI television broadcasts will feature aerial images of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Snoopy One may not have been hovering over Baltimore Stadium (also called Venable Stadium) for the 1922 Army-Marine football game, but photographer H.C. Robinson captured an aerial photograph of the stadium’s inaugural event from 549 meters (1,800 feet) above.
Conservator Amanda Malkin has spent the last year examining, documenting, and conservering the Museum's 20 nineteenth century Chinese kites. Malkin shares how the traditional kites were constructed from the multiple thicknesses of split bamboo to the plant fibers that make up the Chinese paper. She also documents her conservation process for one of the treated kites, including the delicate process of removing brown craft paper tape.
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.