When you think of careers in air and space, you might not think of designers, artists or musicians. We'll introduce you to how artistry, creativity and craftsmanship are connected to air and space jobs!

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Artful Thinking in Air and Space Jobs      Design Thinking
Activity: Interior Design Challenge      Activity: Sew a Space Glove 

Explore how artful thinking is used in air and space related jobs.

Sewing and textile arts

Sewing, pattern making, and choosing the right materials are skills used to create the thermal blankets that protect spacecraft from the extreme heat and cold of space. It's very similar to making a quilt!

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A "Mini Quadrilateral Quilt" made by Tiny Apartment Crafts.

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This picture shows a quilted thermal blanket from the Space Shuttle orbiter. It is made of many layers of material, alternating between plastic, mesh and a strong fabric, and sewn together with strong thread. These blankets are flexible and easy to install and replace.

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If you look closely, you can see that the Space Shuttle Discovery is covered with thermal blankets. Can you find the shape of the thermal blanket from the first picture?

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This is a model of New Horizons, the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system. The shiny orange material on the outside of the spacecraft is a different type of thermal blanket.

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NASA technician Brenda Estavia is pictured here carefully sewing a piece of aluminum material onto a piece of Velcro. She works at the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center where thermal blankets are custom made.

Think about it, talk about it: Are there different types of clothing materials that you use to stay warm or cool? Do you have a favorite blanket? How is it sewn together? Does it have more than one layer?  

Model Making

Everyone probably has some type of scale model in their homes, in the form of toy cars, animal figurines, rockets or LEGO models. Model making is a fun hobby that people enjoy.  Along with being fun to play with and to make, models also play an important role in our museum and in the world of aerospace!

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Scale models of aircraft help us see details close up, especially since these machines are very big! When you put one together, you learn more about how machines are put together, and you learn more about their features.

The National Air and Space Museum has more than 5,700 models of aircraft, balloons and other aerospace related items in our collection!

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This is an example of one of the models our museum has in its collection. 

This is a Wood, metal and plastic display model of the Naval Aircraft Factory PN-9 that attempted the first U.S.- Hawaii flight in 1925.

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Small scale models and full scale models are created to test aircraft and spacecraft during the design process.

Pictured here is a full-scale test model of the Viking Mars Lander.  This particular vehicle was used on Earth to simulate its behavior on Mars and test its responses to radio commands.

Think about it, talk about it: Do you have a scale model in your home? What can you learn about the object from it by looking at it very closely? 


Jared Leidich, Suit Systems Lead Engineer for Alan Eustace, the record holder for the world's highest free fall skydive, credits music for playing a big role in his life. Watch this video as he explains how creating songs on the piano and the engineering design process are similar. 

Listen to the music of Jared Leidich, Suit Systems Lead Engineer for Alan Eustace's world record skydive. Be sure to turn up the volume.

Think about it, talk about it: Is there something creative that you like to do that help you think through problems or challenges?

Watch Check out this month's STEM in 30 episode about Unexpected Careers in Aerospace

Having a problem to solve or a challenge to overcome is usually what kickstarts imagination and invention. Each step in the design process helps designers organize their thinking so they can come up with and test their best solutions. Here are the steps:

Activity: Interior Design Challenge (For Ages 10 and Up)

Go through steps of the Design Process to learn more about the job of an airplane interior designer, and create your own interior design of a passenger airplane!


Have you ever flown in an airplane?  How did you feel?  

If you haven't ever flown, have you seen the inside of an airplane?  What did it look like?

Flying in an airplane can make people feel nervous, excited, or maybe even a little sick.  There are airplane interior designers whose job it is to design a plane cabin  in a way that comforts and calms airplane travelers, and keeps them safe! 

Materials You'll Need

  • A Design Challenge Notes sheet - download or copy what you see on the screen onto a piece of paper
  • Several pieces of paper for your sketches
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Black marker
  • Materials for coloring, like colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Your creativity!

Step One

Let's start with Identifying the Problem: How do you design the inside of a passenger airplane so travelers feel comfortable?

The part where passengers ride in the airplane is called the cabin. This is the "room" that you'll be designing.  

Here is what a passenger cabin currently looks like in an airplane that flies longer distances, like from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast.

What do you think passengers need when they're flying in an airplane? Make a list on your Design Challenge Notes page.  Take a look at the image to get some clues.

What are some constraints that you would have that limit your design? 

  • One important one is that the airplane cabin can only be so big, and airlines want to be able to fit as many people as they can on one airplane so they don't lose money on flights. 
  • What other limits can you think of? 

    Step Two

    Investigate and learn more to help with your design. 

    The cabin look and design has changed throughout the years because who was flying in airplanes and why they were flying changed too! Scroll through this slideshow and look for answers to the following questions:

    • What has been designed in the past? Why?
    • What is the current design? Why?

    Write down in your Design Challenge Notes what you've discovered that might help with your design.

    Designs from the Past

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    This airplane, the Douglas DC-7, was the first airliner to provide nonstop transcontinental service in both directions. It was introduced in November 1953, flying between New York and Los Angeles. 

    This image shows in airplane cabin of the Douglas DC-7. What do you notice about the seat placement and color choices?

    Blue is often a color chosen in airplanes because it is calming.

    This airplane, the Boeing 707, was America's first jet airliner, meaning it could travel farther, faster and use less fuel. Flights on the 707 began in the 1950s.

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    This image shows in inside of a Boeing 707 passenger cabin.

    What differences do you notice between this cabin and the Douglas DC-7 cabin?

    Current Designs

    This airplane, the Boeing 747, is important in history because it made air travel more popular and affordable. It was introduced in the 1970s.

    Watch this video to learn more about the Boeing 747 and what it offered passengers when it first came into use.

    The 747 was the widest airliner since the Boeing 314 flying boat of the late 1930s.

    More modern Boeing 747 economy class cabin. 

    Step Three

    Now it's time to think of ideas for your design. 

    What do you want to include in your design? What colors would you choose? How would you arrange the seats? 

    Make a list of ideas and jot them down!

    Step Four

    Design your airplane cabin!

    • Choose the ideas you like best from your brainstorm. Tip: Airplane cabins are shaped like a tube, so draw a long rectangle as the base for your design drawing. 
    • You can also build your cabin using things in your house, like LEGOS or recycled materials. 

    Questions to help if you get stuck:

    • Would you choose to design a lounge or something that looks like a living room?
    • Would you want to make each individual seat area on the plan more comfy?

    Step Five

    Share your design with us!

    We'd love to see what your family created!

    Snap a photo of your design and send it to NASM-FamilyPrograms@si.edu.

    Activity: Sew a Space Glove (For Ages 9 and Under)


    Before astronauts can wear their protective space suit, it must be sewn together similar to clothing you wear! 

    Space suits are made from many different layers of materials, at most 16 layers. The layers are made of different materials that are chosen based on the function they provide. These functions include reflecting light, protecting astronauts from micrometeorites, or creating a comfortable temperature environment within the space suit. Each layer is necessary for a safe and comfortable walk in space. 

    An astronaut glove is specially made to fit their hand. The body part that feels the coldest on a spacewalk is the fingertips. There are heaters in an astronaut’s glove to help keep the astronaut's hands warm while they perform their tasks, but allows them to move their fingers. 

    In this activity, sew together a glove of many layers to play with!


    • Mylar (Can get from balloons or chip bags)
    • Thin craft foam paper sheets (1 per person)
    • Scissors
    • Hole punch
    • Glue stick


    • Yarn (or shoe laces)
    • Tape
    • Pencil
    • Printer Paper


    Creating parts of the glove:

    1. Using a pencil, trace around your hand onto the printer paper. Cut out hand tracing from paper.

    2. Use the glue stick to glue the hand tracing to the mylar sheet. 

    3. Cut around the hand tracing.

    4. Place the hand tracing onto the craft foam sheet. 

    5. Draw a mitten on the foam the goes around the hand tracing and cut the mitten out of the foam. Make two mittens. 

    Putting the glove together: 

    1. Use the hole punch to punch holes around the hand tracing, make sure each finger tip is hole punched .

    2. Place hand tracing on mittens and mark where the holes should go on the mittens.

    3. Hole punch the mittens based on the marks.

    4. Thread yarn into a hole near the wrist and knot the end.

    5. Cover the other end of the yarn in tape to create an aglet.

    6. Sew your glove by passing the yarn through the punched holes!