SI 2003-4850, National Air and Space Museum Archives
Baker, a squirrel monkey, perches on a model of the Jupiter missile that launched her into space on a sub-orbital flight, along with a rhesus monkey named Able, on May 28, 1959 – fifty years ago. Fruit fly larva and sea urchin eggs also accompanied Able and Baker, who both survived the flight; Able, though, died four days after the flight from a reaction to the anesthetic given during surgery to remove an electrode. Baker died at age 27 in 1984 and is buried in Huntsville, Alabama – visitors sometimes leave bananas on her grave. Able, seated on her couch, is on display in the National Air and Space Museum’s National Mall building in the Apollo to the Moon gallery. And she makes an appearance in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (though played by a capuchin monkey), where she gets to slap Ben Stiller.
And if you happen to be in Washington on June 10th, Able stars in an Ask An Expert presentation, Night at the Museum - the Real Stuff.
National Geographic has a great portfolio of space monkeys, including both Able and Baker, and also Ham the astrochimp.
Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the Archives Division of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and is the author of Animals Aloft.
Original model of starship "Enterprise" used in the filming of the Star Trek TV show (1966-69). The model is on display in the Museum Store at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
It is always fun when a new Star Trek feature film comes out. I am old enough (barely) to remember the original series and how exciting it seemed at the time, as well as how corny it so often looks today. I waited with excitement for every one of the Star Trek films to appear with the original crew. Unfortunately, I was disappointed about every other time a new film appeared. One might say I am a Trekker, although not one as enthusiastic as many others I know. I certainly don’t own a Star Fleet uniform and I have never tried to learn Klingon.
So with the release of the new Star Trek “prequel” this summer, I was excited to see a reimagining of the original series and how the crew of the Star Ship Enterprise first met. I didn’t go to an opening day screening, but one of my friends who did, said that the film “didn’t suck.” What a relief! Good enough for me; I watched it over the Memorial Day weekend and was not disappointed.
It looks like the Star Trek franchise has the potential for another arc of some half dozen or so movies based on the early career of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhuru, and Scotty. What do others think about the film and possibilities for the future of the Star Trek Franchise? Also, since this is a National Air and Space Museum blog, what do you think about the possibility of real space travel in the future? Will my successors at the museum be collecting key artifacts from spacecraft like the Enterprise a millennium from now?
Roger Launius is a curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum.
Maybe it was director Shawn Levy’s dimpled grin as he talked about featuring the Smithsonian in his new movie. Or perhaps it was producer Tom Hammel’s description of how they planned to reunite Amelia Earhart with her beloved Lockheed Vega in the Museum. In any case, when the crew from Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian first met with us, I had a sense this project was going to be fun.
Almost two years later, after script discussions; contract negotiations; numerous phone meetings; a 4-day shoot on location last summer; a trip to visit the set in Vancouver; a star-studded premiere and press junket; and the opportunity to see a talented and precious Capuchin monkey named Crystal perform, I am still smiling.
Of course, the Smithsonian would never have lent its name to the movie if the project hadn’t been family-friendly and supportive of the Smithsonian’s identity, goals and mission. But Shawn and Tom, who both have little kids, maintained that the sequel would turn children on to museums, just as the first movie had. After watching the movie with kids, I’m betting youngsters will soon be begging their parents to see the Wright Flyer and the Ruby Slippers.
The movie comes out in theaters nationwide today. There has been lots of publicity and, in addition to promoting the movie, cast members said so many wonderful things about the Smithsonian. It was a thrill to see Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria and Robin Williams, here on the National Mall. I do have one regret, however. Crystal couldn’t make it to the premiere. Darn!
Claire Brown is Director of Communications at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Photo by Tim Grove
Watching the broadcast of the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifting off into the blue sky last week brought back memories of a research trip to the Kennedy Space Center last fall. National Air and Space Museum staff members are hard at work on a new exhibition about the history of the space shuttle era and the International Space Station. The trip included behind-the-scenes tours of various facilities at the Center and an up-close look at launch pad 39A with an elevator ride to 195 feet and a peek inside the entry hatch of Atlantis. What a thrill!
The challenge before the exhibition team is how to translate the enormity of the shuttle (positioned for flight, it’s taller than the Statue of Liberty) and the extreme conditions of space into a 5,000 square foot exhibition that is engaging, interactive and educational. We can’t replicate the amazing Kennedy Space Center views or simulate a launch, but our partnership with NASA allows us access to fascinating artifacts and video footage. In the end, our goal is to create an exhibition that capitalizes on the Smithsonian’s unique ability to provide museum visitors with a look at cool stuff, while learning an accurate story, and making personal connections to our nation’s history. Phase I of the exhibition opens in October.
Tim Grove is acting Chief of Education at the National Air and Space Museum’s building on the National Mall.