Author Archives: The National Air and Space Museum

Capturing the Early History of Aeronautics

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Among the treasures found within the special collections of the DeWitt Clinton Ramsey Room, a branch of the Smithsonian Libraries located at the National Air and Space Museum, is a collection of oversized scrapbooks with an interesting and complicated history. Originally bound in one volume, William Upcott’s Scrapbook of Early Aeronautica captures the history of   …Continue Reading


Inventing the Apollo Spaceflight Biomedical Sensors

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During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, one of NASA’s concerns was the safety of its crews, something it monitored rigorously through the use of biomedical instrumentation. As initial flight planning commenced in 1959, biomedical equipment capable of transmitting from space did not exist. NASA quickly brought together medical staff and hardware engineers to develop   …Continue Reading


The First Pictures from the Moon’s Surface

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Half a century ago, in February and June 1966, robotic spacecraft first landed on the Moon. I vividly remember those events from my days as a 14-year-old space buff. On February 3, the Soviet Union’s Luna 9 thumped down on the vast lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), after a number of   …Continue Reading


Obscure Objects: Mary E. “Mother” Tusch Plaque

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“God bless you,” was the way in which “Mother” Tusch said farewell to pilots who visited her at her Berkeley, California cottage from 1915 to 1950, so it is fitting that the phrase is engraved on this plaque found among her vast collection of aviation memorabilia. This bronze commemorative plaque measures 50.8 x 1.3 x   …Continue Reading


Adjusting Our Atomic Clock for the Leap Second

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Our exhibition Time and Navigation features an atomic clock that will keep an accurate time within a tiny fraction of a second for the foreseeable future (see my earlier post to learn how atomic clocks work and how we installed ours into the exhibition). Except, of course, when we need to account for a leap second.  What’s   …Continue Reading