The dangers of ballooning were apparent to aeronauts and the general public. From the early 1800s, attempts to fly over water too often ended in disaster or a narrow escape. Some of the best known aeronauts on both sides of the Atlantic set off across a large body of water never to be seen again. The daring rescue of balloonists from water was a favorite subject with artists and engravers. The vision of a “lost balloon” vanishing over the horizon became a metaphor for the uncertainties of life in the turbulent 19th century.
In late March, I traveled to Puerto Rico to conduct observations of Venus using the Arecibo Observatory telescope. It was the second time I traveled to the observatory to make radar measurements of the surface of Venus. Even though it was my second time there, the size and capability of the telescope still impressed me; the telescope is largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed.
The Ford Tri-Motor was the first practical airliner in the U.S. True to its name, the aircraft had three engines. If one engine broke down, the airplane still had two engines to continue flying. The Ford Tri-Motor made air travel popular, showing the public that air travel was safe and reliable.
When the Museum’s Apollo Lunar Module (LM-2) moved to a prominent place in our Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall last year, it was an opportunity for us to examine the artifact in fine detail. We spared no effort to preserve, refurbish, and document the iconic object before it went on display in our central gallery in 2016. With careful research and close examination of photography from the Apollo 11 mission, we have been able to refine the accuracy of the external appearance of our LM-2 to more and more closely represent the appearance of LM-5 (Eagle) on the Moon.
Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22. An annual event begun in 1970, it is, in the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, “devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature.” Before and since that first occasion, spaceflight and the environmental movement have been deeply entwined, shaping how we think about Earth as home as well as our responsibilities to sustain that home.
Hell’s Angels, along with Wings and The Dawn Patrol, is considered one of the three great early aviation films that defined the genre. The movie featured authentic aerial combat scenes, innovative camera work, and incredible miniature effects. Upwards of 50 aircraft, nearly half actual World War I airplanes, were assembled for the production, and some 75 pilots were employed to fly the aerial sequences and pilot the camera planes.
Of the four known giant planets in our solar system, Jupiter is by far the largest. It is wider than 11 Earths side by side and has more mass than all the other seven planets combined. It is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and has strong winds and storms.
On April 7, 2017, New Horizons entered a 157-day-long hibernation. New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe and is NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. After operating steadily for almost two and a half years, the spacecraft and its systems deserve this much-needed break.
Before coming to work at the National Air and Space Museum, I taught for 15 years at Liberty Public Schools near Kansas City, Missouri. When I was teaching, I would write to anyone I thought I could get a response from, including celebrities, asking them for advice for students. My favorite responses were always from astronauts.