The District of Columbia officially declared July 1 to be the National Air and Space Museum Day in 1986 to celebrate the Museum’s 10th anniversary. From collecting aircraft with supersonic speed to receiving our 175 millionth visitor, a lot happened in the ten years that followed. This blog will explore a few of the Museum’s highlights from 1986 to 1996.
In 1986, NASA transferred to the Museum the flight clothing and equipment of Senator Edwin Jacob “Jake” Garn, the first member of Congress to fly in space. Garn worked as the payload specialist, assisting the crew with various tasks and experiments, on STS 51-D in April 1985. His clothing and equipment, including these blue coveralls he wore, were placed on display for an exhibition about the space shuttle program.
This android testing unit was created to support the development of spacesuits and was donated to the Museum in 1986. It used hydraulic and electrical actuators to replicate many of the joint motions of the human body with realistic force. Sensors placed throughout the dummy measured forces that a prototype spacesuit might exert on a human being when wearing the suit in a space environment. The dummy played an important role during prototyping taking the place of a human for tests that could have been painful, tedious, or even dangerous. You can see this android testing unit on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
In the summer of 1987, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager donated Voyager, the first aircraft to fly around the world without landing or refueling, to the Museum. For their nine-day, record breaking flight in December 1986, Voyager carried 1,200 gallons or 7,000 pounds of fuel at take-off. It had eight storage tanks on each side of the airplane and a fuel tank in the center, for a total of 17 tanks. The pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, had to shift fuel from tank to tank during the flight to keep the airplane in balance. Voyager had a cramped cockpit which was a remarkable feat of endurance for the pilots. They had to take turns sitting at the controls, and lying down in a space that was approximately 1.2 by 2.1 meters (4 by 7 feet).
This test vehicle served as a frame on which the cables and wiring harnesses for the actual Hubble Space Telescope were fabricated. Studies on this test vehicle included vibration and thermal studies. It was accordingly named the Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle (SDTV). It was stored outdoors at the Lockheed Missile and Space Company in Sunnyvale, California, until it was donated to the Museum in June 1987.
On November 3, 1989, this Grumman G-21 Goose formed the centerpiece of a new exhibition called Commuting in the Modern Manner. The G-21 was designed as an "air yacht" for wealthy New York businessmen so they could commute from their homes on Long Island to their Manhattan offices. This Goose flew with several airlines before the Naval Aviation Museum acquired it and later transferred it to the Smithsonian.
This propeller spinner used on the Spirit of St. Louis was replaced shortly after Charles Lindbergh arrived at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, on May 12, 1927 to prepare for his flight to Paris. The technicians at Curtiss Aircraft who serviced the aircraft saved the original parts because they knew they would become valuable if Lindbergh succeeded in flying nonstop from New York to Paris. The propeller spinner, signed by the men and women from Ryan Aircraft who helped manufacture the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, was donated to the Museum on October 20, 1989.
On March 6, 1990, the Museum received this Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest airplane. This Blackbird accrued approximately 2,800 hours of flight time during its 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. The Lockheed SR-71 cruises at an average speed of Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound. On its last flight on March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometers (2,124 miles) per hour. At the flight's conclusion, they landed at Washington Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.
More than 80 original props, costumes, and models used in the creation of the original Star Trek series were featured in a retrospective exhibition in 1992, including the Museum’s Enterprise studio model. At the time, Marilyn Kozak was asked to serve as the gallery supervisor. She remembers just how popular the exhibition was. “They kept coming. Sometimes over 4,000 a day,” she recalls. “Some wore uniforms, others had memorized entire scripts, many were just curious. The president of Mozambique, Sonny Bono, Chelsea Clinton, David Copperfield, and Gary Busey all came to see.”
The Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model will be on display in the new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, opening on July 1.
The cornerstone of the National Air and Space Museum’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1996 was the opening of the How Things Fly exhibition, an exploration of the scientific principles that make aviation and spaceflight possible. It remains a popular destination for visitors, both in the Museum in Washington, DC, and online.
The cornerstone of the National Air and Space Museum’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1996 was the opening of the How Things Fly exhibition, an exploration of the scientific principles that make aviation and spaceflight possible.
The Museum welcomed its 175 millionth visitor, Dorothy Burns of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on March 14, 1996.
Minne Atairu is currently an intern with the Digital Experiences department. She’s working toward a Masters degree in Museum Studies at the George Washington University.
For the past year or so, I have been writing about employee life during World War II at the Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation (NAC) in St. Paul, Minnesota, as documented in a series of wooden scrapbooks created for company president John E. Parker. The company supported a softball league with batting averages to shame Ted Williams and a league-leading hockey team. For Thanksgiving, employees received a turkey, compliments of the company. And in June 1945, the company sponsored the Miss Northwestern beauty contest.
A purple mimeograph flyer asks, “Have you a future ‘Miss America’ in your home?” Daughters of employees ages eight years or younger were eligible to enter the contest. Grand prize? A $25 war bond. Throughout the war, Miss America and other beauty pageant contestants had been featured in war bonds drives, and NAC employees, in addition to being responsible for assembling up to 15 wooden gliders a day, were up to the patriotic task.
On June 17, approximately twenty-five girls lined up on the stage at nearby Excelsior Amusement Park, in what appears to be the same location for Miss Minnesota contests in the 1940s and 1950s. The Parker collection does not include a program, but from a photograph of the pageant, there appear to be an emcee, piano accompaniment, and judges, with a well-dressed audience (and a few other children running around) in the foreground.
And at the end of the day, a young girl was crowned “Miss Northwestern 1945,” her family going home with the $25 war bond.
Elizabeth C. Borja is an archivist in the Museum’s Archives Department.
The history of beauty contests and the social impact of beauty culture in the United States is one frequently visited in modern scholarly and popular works. Articles that may be of interest include an overview of the development of 20th century beauty culture; a study of corporate pageants in postwar America; part of a Smithsonian Magazine series on the history of the swimsuit, particularly as it applies to pageants; and a PBS American Experience documentary on Miss America.
I’m snatching moments to write this from Chile, sitting on the floor of the airport, or bouncing up winding mountain roads in a van. I’m here as an Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador, with eight other ambassadors.
I’m on my way to see some of the greatest observatories in the world and to experience Chile’s legendary night skies. This is a lifelong dream of mine, and I’m also excited to be a part of this team. We’re forging a partnership that will last for years. We’ll collaborate on several projects that will help educate people about how U.S. investments in the astronomy infrastructure here in Chile are transforming our understanding of the Universe.
For instance, the Gemini Planet Imager uses a sophisticated laser system to remove a star’s twinkling and blocks the star’s light to get beautiful images of planets orbiting the star. As the manager of the Museum’s astronomy education department, I’m excited to share what I discover with our visitors.
So far we’ve explored Santiago, discussed the history of U.S. relations with Chile, and visited a luxury tourist observatory. Yes, they have those here. In Chile, astro-tourism is a growing business. I hope one day we can have the same here in the U.S., with beautifully appointed lodges equipped with rows of telescopes.
Next on our itinerary is to visit Gemini South; Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory; and ALMA, an observatory that captures images of the Universe in invisible light. On Thursday, June 16, the Museum will be hosting a live video chat with me from Cerro Tololo, broadcast in the Exploring the Universe gallery. If you come to the Museum, you can talk to me while I’m in Chile.
You can also follow my adventure here in Chile on Facebook or Twitter with #ACEAP2016. After I return home, you can visit me at the Museum to hear more about the journey and the marvelous astronomy news coming out of Chile.
Geneviève de Messières manages the astronomy education program in the Education Department of the National Air and Space Museum
For more than four decades, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has celebrated the greatest achievements in aviation and space history.
When the Museum’s building in Washington, DC opened in 1976, President Gerald Ford reminded the Museum’s first visitors about the remarkable technological advances made within the century. “The story of powered flight is an American saga,” he said. “The wonder is that it has all happened in the lifetime and memory of living Americans.”
This “American saga” is shared with Museum visitors every day through historical artifacts, notable speakers, and unique programming. This post honors the first 10 years of the building on the National Mall in Washington, DC, with highlights from the decade.
When the doors opened in 1976, the Museum’s central gallery, Milestones of Flight, displayed the most extraordinary collection of authentic aviation- and space-related artifacts in the world, among them the 1903 Wright Flyer, a piece of the Moon, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis, Friendship 7, and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia.
Columbia carried Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins on the first lunar landing mission in July 1969 and is the only piece of the Apollo 11 spacecraft to return to Earth. In 1979, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins gathered in the Museum’s Milestones of Flight Hall to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their historic mission. Collins served as the Museum’s third director from 1971 to 1978 and the first to serve in the Museum’s flagship building.
Other notable appearances at the Museum during this time included Sally Ride, Alan Shepard, Bob Hoover, Chuck Yeager, and Burt Rutan.
In 1981, the Museum temporarily diverged from the art of flight to delve into the art of cooking when the Smithsonian Institution Press published the Famous Personalities of Flight Cookbook. The cookbook featured high-flying recipes from Amelia Earhart, Orville Wright, and Neil Armstrong.
For visitors who were not in the mood for a ham loaf recipe from John Glenn or Michael Collins’ lamb curry recipe, the Museum opened Space Food, an exhibition that displayed freeze-dried, compressed, and packaged meals eaten by astronauts during their missions.
During this decade, the Museum also looked beyond human-made machines to learn about flight. It was a part of a project that constructed a flying replica of a giant pterodactyl Quetzalcoatlus northropi. The replica, called QN-THE TIME TRAVELER™, appeared in the Museum’s film On the Wing in 1985 which examined flight in its various forms.
In addition to creating films, the Museum also collected thousands of new artifacts including the Skylab orbital workshop, a Lunar Roving Vehicle, the reconnaissance aircraft Lockheed U-2C, and aerobatic champion Betty Skelton’s Pitts S-1 Special to name only a few.
The Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies also contributed dramatically during these years. Using LANDSAT images in 1981, the Center’s director Dr. Farouk El-Baz, discovered a circular crater located in a remote region of the Sahara Desert. The desert area bore a striking resemblance to the planet Mars, prompting a field expedition the following year.
As the story of powered flight continued to evolve, the Museum continued to collect and commemorate those moments in history. Leading up to the Museum’s 40th anniversary of its flagship building in Washington, DC on July 1, we will share more highlights from each of those four decades.
MaryCate Most is an intern with the Museum’s Digital Experiences department. She is currently a senior studying journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
On October 7, 1929, Anne Morrow Lindbergh gazed out the window of a Sikorsky S-38 flying boat, entranced by the view before her: gleaming stone structures only recently freed from the thick tropical vegetation of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico—Chichén Itzá, a remnant of the Mayan civilization that thrived there between 750 and 1200 AD. Her husband Charles A. Lindbergh piloted the aircraft that skimmed just above the ruins and treetop canopy. Archeologists from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who were actively excavating other Mayan sites in dense jungle, accompanied them and were pleased to behold their first aerial sight of the great Mesoamerican civilization. The Lindberghs also brought along a popular camera, the Graflex RB Series C model now displayed at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, with which they took the first aerial photographs of Mayan sites in British Honduras (now Belize), Guatemala, and Mexico, as well as ancestral Puebloan sites in southwestern United States. Their milestone photography illuminated the details of pre-Columbian societies and became permanent aerial records of these settlements.
How did the Lindberghs get involved in the emerging field of aerial archaeology? In February 1929, during his inaugural Pan American airmail flight from Havana to the Panama Canal, Charles flew inland from the Gulf of Honduras and noticed unusual mounds and man-made structures protruding from the jungle. Back in Washington, DC, he contacted Secretary Abbot of the Smithsonian Institution who sent him to President J.C. Merriam of the Carnegie Institution that was conducting archeological studies at several Native American culture sites. Merriam referred Charles to Dr. Alfred V. Kidder who had active digs at New Mexico ruins of the ancestral Puebloans (859 AD and 1250 AD). Chaco Canyon was first “discovered’ by the white trader Josiah Gregg in 1832; Kidder was excavating its Great Houses that served as community centers for an ancient culture that, according to oral tradition, was sophisticated and complex. Lindbergh said he would be flying near the area that summer and agreed to photograph sites from the air.
Following their marriage in June 1929, Charles and Anne Lindbergh embarked on a cross-country flight from Roosevelt Field to Los Angeles in a Curtiss Falcon, landing at the depots and airports for the Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) rail-air, 48-hour, coast-to-coast passenger service for which Charles was technical advisor. En route back east they used their Graflex RB Series C to make the first aerial map of Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly and New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and Pecos area. With Charles as her flight instructor, Anne was already able to hold a steady course in the open-cockpit Falcon so they took turns flying and photographing. Together they shot more than 100 photographs of ancestral Puebloan ruins and another 100 in the Four Corners area (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado) in seven days. From their aircraft perch, they spied the remains of cliff dwellings so well hidden near the top of a canyon wall that they were unknown to the Carnegie team. They carefully photographed the site (now known as Beehive Ruin) so that it could be relocated later. Many of the Lindbergh images from Canyon de Chelly were the first known aerial photographs for these locations.
The Graflex RB Series C was part of a revered line of single-lens reflex cameras that offered an exact reflected image of the subject in its ground glass viewer and a focal plane shutter with exposure speeds up to 1/1000th of a second. This particular Graflex featured a Taylor-Hobson lens with a large aperture that aided in focus control. Therefore, though this was a hand-held camera, it produced sharp images from the open front windows of the moving S-38. A flip up viewfinder allowed the Lindberghs to shoot at eye level while seated in the plane (normal stance was waist high with an open focusing hood).
The Lindberghs’ pioneering aerial archaeology, documenting the area in relatively pristine condition, stood as the only aerial record until the 1960s. The collection held surprises including the first images of the only prehistoric road system in North America; later infrared photography revealed the ancestral Puebloans had cut more than 644 kilometers (400 miles) of straight roads through the rough terrain. Aerial images of the Pueblo Bonito great house of 600 rooms and “The Threatening Rock” that towered over it proved their worth when, in 1941, the sandstone rock pillar fell onto the ruins, destroying 65 excavated rooms. Based on this successful mission, Kidder and the Lindberghs agreed to continue the aerial photography at Carnegie’s Mayan dig sites in the fall when they would be in the area for Pan American Airways.
On September 20, 1929, Charles and Anne departed Dinner Key, Miami in a Fokker 10A Trimotor with Pan American President Juan Trippe and his wife Betty for a 11,265 kilometer (7,000 mile) Pan American Airways airmail and marketing tour around the Caribbean Sea. In Havana, they switched to an S-38, an eight-seat amphibian designed by Igor Sikorsky, often called an ugly duckling due to its snout nose, boat-shaped wooden hull, twin tails set on high outriggers, and cluttered appearance of struts and wires. Though water splashed up on the cockpit windows during takeoff, it was the right choice for overwater flights to islands and inlands where airfields were scarce.
With Charles, Anne, and a Pan Am employee in one S-38 and the Trippes in another, the group island hopped from Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Virgin Islands, Port of Spain to Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, and the coasts of South and Central America. The Lindberghs then flew the S-38 NC142M to Belize, British Honduras, to rendezvous with Dr. Kidder, happy to leave the crowds behind.
The group spent five days surveying remote areas in British Honduras, Guatemala, and the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan in the southern Mexico peninsula. Flying between 152 and 457 meters (500 and 1,500 feet) above the canopy of trees gave them enough height to detect elevation changes at eye level, possibly signifying something worth investigating, while the “cruising speed” of 145 kph (90 mph) allowed for close inspection into the vegetation. With Charles at the controls, Anne was a constant set of eyes seated either in the front right seat or in the cabin; both of them photographed visible ruins, promising sites, and the geographical features of swamps, rivers, and terrain. On October 6, Anne and archeologist Oliver Ricketson, Jr. flew with Charles for five and a half hours, covering 731 kilometers (454 miles). They headed west along the Belize River looking for ruins of Yaxha but, unable to find them, they flew on to the ruins at Uaxactun, the oldest known Mayan city that Ricketson had been excavating for four years. En route they set “records,” flying 23 kilometers (14 miles) southwest from Tikal to Uaxactun in six minutes, a trip that took a day by pack mule, and reducing another three-day mule ride in dense, bug-infested vegetation to an hour by air. Turning north along a 644-kilometer (400-mile) course, they constantly verified or corrected data and maps and took photographs; when they saw the Gulf of Mexico they turned west to Merida.
The next day, Dr. Kidder joined them for a four-hour flight over Chichén Itzá, where Anne or Charles took the finest extant photographs of the site including El Castillo, Temple of the Warriors, the large Ball Court, and El Caracol, and the return to Belize. They flew up and down the peninsula on the 8th and 9th searching for other sites and set out on the 10th to look for an ancient masonry causeway but were unable to find it. Bidding farewell to Kidder and Ricketson, the Lindberghs flew on to Miami, never to return to this project. In her diary, Anne wrote her testament to the lost world of the Mayans:
We had one exciting day of finding mounds of ruins in the Quintana Roo country south of Yucatan. The thick jungle growth trails over mounds and masonry, like a blanket of snow; one can see nothing but an outline, usually. But it gives one a weird feeling to see a bit of wall – white masonry sticking nobly out of the tangling jungle, still fighting for breath. Unspeakably alone and majestic and desolate – the mark of a great civilization gone.
The Lindbergh Carnegie images proved the value of aviation and aerial photography to archeological research in remote areas—Carnegie archeologists now had detailed aerial evidence of two great Native American cultures to connect with ground excavation. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, houses portions of the Lindbergh Southwest images and currently displays an exhibit juxtaposing Lindbergh and recent aerial photographs of the area. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University holds images transferred from the former Carnegie Institution and a limited number of images are in the Charles A. Lindbergh collection at Yale University Library. The Graflex RB Series C camera, donated to the Museum by Juan Trippe, is in the aerial photographic case at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
Dorothy Cochrane is a curator in the Aeronautics Department of the National Air and Space Museum.