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Thu, December 21 2017

An Aviation Christmas Card Carol

‘Tis the season for holiday cards.  Many cards feature photos of families and pets dressed in festive (maybe even matching) outfits.  Aviators, on the other hand, celebrate their airplanes! The many collections in the National Air and Space Museum Archives are filled with enough cards to last well beyond the 12 days of Christmas.

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G.M. Bellanca Christmas Card
Wed, December 20 2017

Star Wars: A Merchandising Empire

In 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope, the first installment on George Lucas’s famous Star Wars film series, became one of the biggest box office hits of all time. It also gave rise to an innovative mass-marketing campaign for toys and other products that became an industry model.

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A set of Star Wars toys manufactured for the release of The Empire Strikes Back, 1980.
Mon, December 18 2017

The Study of Flying Saucer Sightings

The phenomenon of contact with aliens has its own history. It was not always the case that those contending they had an encounter with extraterrestrials described the experiences as coercive and frightening. On the contrary, in the decade and a half after the first reports of flying saucer sightings in 1947, most prominent stories of close encounters of the third kind described the aliens as inviting, friendly, and kind.

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A hypothetical alien spacecraft for the National Air and Space Museum’s “Life in the Universe” exhibit.
Sat, December 16 2017

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Today would have been visionary science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 100th birthday (1917-2008). In the many decades since his first writings, his renown and influence still reverberate, motivating a range of contemporary thinkers.

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Arthur C. Clarke in his Study
Fri, December 15 2017

How Star Wars Revolutionized Entertainment

The three ways that the Star Wars franchised changed the entertainment business. 

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An R2-D2 action figure issued for The Empire Strikes Back.
Thu, December 14 2017

That’s no moon. (It's also not the Death Star.)

With its spherical shape and piecemeal construction, it’s easy to see similarities between the Telstar satellite on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the infamous Death Star of the Star Wars films. Aside from a passing resemblance in design, both pieces of technology also address a larger question that has been a focal point for humankind in reality and fantasy: what does space mean for humanity?

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Telstar
Wed, December 13 2017

Light Speed Delivery: The Smithsonian’s R2-D2 Mailbox

On display in a galaxy not so far, far away: the National Postal Museum's R2-D2 mailbox, currently on view at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

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The R2-D2 mailbox on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Tue, December 12 2017

How Astronauts Return to Earth

If you were freefalling back to Earth from space, would you want to rely on a couple of parachutes and some rockets to protect you from crashing? As crazy as it sounds, that is what allows astronauts aboard the Russian Soyuz capsules to safely return to Earth.

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Astronaut Randy Bresnik Aboard the ISS
Mon, December 11 2017

"We Choose to go to the Moon:" JFK's Moon Shot

As the American space program once again looks toward the Moon, we revisit President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 challenge to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.

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Apollo 11: Buzz Aldrin and the U.S. flag on the Moon
Wed, December 6 2017

How Iceland Helps us Understand Saturn’s Icy Moon

This past August, CEPS scientists traveled to Iceland to study geologic features known as pit chains, which form in a similar way to pit chains on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus.

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Saturn's Satellite Enceladus

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