Author Archives: The National Air and Space Museum

Skylab is Falling!

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Thirty-five years ago, on July 11, 1979, the first US space station fell out of orbit. It wasn’t a surprise or an error, nor was it a calamity. It was more like an intense meteor shower—sparkling and momentary—as Skylab entered the atmosphere. Very little of this spacecraft as large as a house was ever found   …Continue Reading


Remembering Frederick Ira Ordway, III

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Fred Ordway passed away in Huntsville, Alabama, on the morning of Tuesday July 1. We were friends for 40 years, but then I can’t think of anyone in the aerospace community with a wider circle of friends than Fred. We have a tradition at the Museum of honoring deceased aerospace leaders with a short obituary   …Continue Reading


Blazing the Trail in Space

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The first successful American “astronaut” is on display at the Smithsonian in the Apollo to the Moon exhibition. It’s not Alan Shepard, but Able, a rhesus monkey. Able and a squirrel monkey named Baker were the first American animals to enter space and return safely. On May 28, 1959 at Cape Canaveral, Able was placed   …Continue Reading


Where is Flak-Bait?

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The Museum’s Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder Flak-Bait and its crews survived 207 operational missions over Europe, more than any other American aircraft during World War II. Recognizing that significance, the U.S. Army Air Forces saved it from destruction after the war. The newly-created U.S. Air Force transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1949 and the B-26   …Continue Reading


“Buzz Bomb”: 70th Anniversary of the V-1 Campaign

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On June 13, 1944, exactly one week after the Allied landings in Normandy, Britain came under attack from a strange new Nazi weapon, a flying bomb. The English called it the “buzz bomb” or “doodlebug,” among other nicknames, because its pulsejet engine, based on rapid, intermittent combustion, produced a very loud buzzing sound. Known to   …Continue Reading