Women in the United States have long served their country and women aviators have been no exception. Perhaps the best known efforts are those of the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP), formed in 1943, merging the Women’s Auxiliary Flying Squadron and Women’s Flying Training Detachment. But before the WASP, women pilots, such as Ruth Law, Opal Kunz, Florence “Pancho” Barnes, and Mary Charles were determined to serve their country in whatever way they could.
What makes a tattered and torn glove worthy of collecting? When it once belonged to the third highest scoring ace in aviation history Günther Rall. The glove (with its thumb visibly damaged from a 1944 air raid in whichRall was hit in the left hand by gun fire), a painted portrait of Rall as a prisoner of war, and his diary from 1942 were all recently donated to the Museum.
Ninety years ago today, on March 16, 1926, Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945) launched the world’s first liquid-propellant rocket. His rickety contraption, with its combustion chamber and nozzle on top, burned for 20 seconds before consuming enough liquid oxygen and gasoline to lift itself off the launch rack. The rocket took off from a snowy field outside Worcester, Massachusetts, reaching a height of about 12.5 meters (41 feet) and a distance of 56 meters (184 feet). It was smashed on impact. Goddard, his wife Esther, and a couple of assistants from Clark University, where he was a physics professor, were the only witnesses.
Last year I wrote about the Armstrong purse, discovered by Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, in their home shortly after Neil’s death in 2012. That stowage bag of small (but historically significant) items from the first lunar landing was a reminder that the story of Apollo 11 continues to be told as new details emerge in unexpected places. Recently, we have again been reminded that a curator’s work is never done. During the course of a project to produce a detailed 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, we were able to observe and record some hand-written notes and markings in areas of the spacecraft that have been hidden from view for more than 40 years.
It’s not a typical afternoon at work when you answer the phone and hear, "Hey, Dr. Neal. It's Kjell Lindgren calling from the International Space Station." Thus began a 15-minute surprise call from the ISS Expedition 44-45 NASA astronaut. Lindgren just wanted to say that he had with him the Museum flag and Gemini IV patch that he borrowed to take in his personal preference kit. He had unpacked them and shot some photos in the cupola for us. "I'm looking forward to bringing those back to you once I get back from my mission," he said.
Our conservation team had the pleasure of hosting Alan Eustace, former Google executive, engineer, and stratospheric explorer, this month in the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory. Eustace and his StratEx team are well known for their three world records including one for the highest altitude jump at 41,422 meters (135,899 feet) in 2014. The adventurer was in town giving a lecture about his historic jump and to donate to the Museum the suit, life support, and balloon equipment module he used during the jump.