AidSpace Blog

Put Me In, Coach!

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It’s April and baseball is back!!! Americans’ love of baseball can be found throughout the National Air and Space Museum Archives’ collections. Members of the military visited baseball teams to compare equipment and even demonstrated the flexibility of spacesuits on the ball field. Baseball teams began to charter their own flights between games. And everywhere, even on a military base in India, you could find a baseball game!

The employees of Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation in Minnesota, in addition to building up to 15 gliders a day for the war effort, developed their own recreational league, which included bowling, basketball, hockey, and, of course, softball teams.

NAC Softball team pose

Say “Pickle!” Members of a Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation softball team pose, circa 1945. Image: NASM 9A12175-108-A

These teams took their league play quite seriously and the employee newsletter Tow Lines published the standings in each issue. The John E. Parker Collection only holds a few issues of Tow Lines, but the August 1943 issue provides insight into the corporation’s softball league. The best team that year was the Stores Gremlins, with a 7-1 record and a .426 team batting average that would put Ted Williams to shame.

NAC Softball team members after a game

The ball isn’t getting past these players. Members of a Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation softball team pose after a game, circa 1945. Image: NASM 9A12175-108-B

The names of the other teams in the league were the Bombers (5-3 record), Accounting (3-5), Question Marks (3-5), and Final Assembly (3-5). The plant affiliations of several of the teams can be inferred from their names, but the Question Marks remain a, well, you know.

All of the plant’s recreational teams were provided for by proceeds from candy vending machines. The newsletter cautioned, “Don’t treat ’em too rough, boys, if you enjoy your game of softball.” But candy was definitely not the post-game refreshment of choice.

NAC Softball team members celebrate after a game

Nothing like a pipe and a beer after a good game of softball. Members of a Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation softball team celebrate, circa 1945. Image: NASM 9A12175-109-A

Get your cold drinks, hot dogs, and Cracker Jack and enjoy this season of baseball!

Elizabeth C. Borja is an archivist in the Museum’s Archives Department. In addition to her many sports posts, she has been chronicling life at the Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation.

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Tribble Trial Trends Toward Trouble

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Stardate 1604.01: At 12:01 am EDT this morning, the National Air and Space Museum began breeding tribbles. This bold, innovative, not-at-all-ill-advised experiment will run for 24 hours, until 11:59 pm tonight, allowing Museum specialists to study the galaxy’s most adorable ecological disaster in greater detail than ever before. The tribble trial utilizes five original specimens of the species Polygeminus grex from the original Star Trek television series, donated to the Museum in 1973.


The tribbles used to start the breeding program represent a genetic cross-section of the original props donated to the Museum in 1973.

Today’s tribble breeding pilot project is in celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. “After 50 years, we decided it was time to bring the tribble back! So, we worked with several specialized veterinary schools and zoos in order to create a special diet and then it was easy—we just fed them and let nature take its course,” said Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, curator of the Museum’s Social and Cultural Dimensions of Spaceflight collection. A 24-hour, live tribble cam will monitor the project. The Museum is also completing conservation work on the original 3-meter (11-foot) studio model of the Enterprise used in all 79 episodes of the original series. Museum conservators are working to stabilize the model and return it to its appearance from the 1967 episode The Trouble with Tribbles. The Enterprise will go back on public display in the new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall in time for the Museum’s 40th birthday in July.

Tribbles are insatiable eaters, devouring any available foodstuff in amounts seemingly disproportionate to their mass. They also propagate at an exponential rate. On their homeworld of Iota Germinorum V, the tribble population is kept in check by numerous tribble-vorous reptiles. But the species has no known natural predators at the Museum, hence the strict 24-hour limit on the breeding program. “Any longer and we could have a population explosion on our hands,” said STEM in 30 host Marty Kelsey, who calculated that the tribble tribe could reach 1,771,561 fur-balls in just 72 hours, adding that, “things could get hairy in a hurry without the proper controls, even in one of the world’s most popular museums.” For comparison, the National Air and Space Museum welcomed 8.5 million humans in 2015.

Tribbles have a soothing effect on humans, purring and cooing when stroked. This makes them attractive as pets, despite their rapacious rate of reproduction. General Jack Dailey, the Museum’s John and Adrienne Mars Director, agreed, “I was skeptical. I’m more of a dog person. But now that they’re here, I’ve warmed up to these little critters. The whole staff is taking to them quite well. With the busy, everyday challenges of running one of the world’s most popular museums, the tribbles seem to have a calming effect. They’re a wonderful work companion.”

Klingons are a notable exception to the tribbles’ tranquilizing effects, and the two species clash violently in close quarters. Klingons still sing songs of the Great Tribble Hunt, an attempt to rid the galaxy of their vexing enemy once and for all. The program has already paid dividends, revealing an alleged Klingon spy operating within the Museum for decades. The accused agent, Chief Curator Peter Jakab, denies charges of espionage but became noticeably defensive when asked about his lack of distinctive Klingon forehead ridges. “We do not discuss it with outsiders,” said the renowned aviation historian and presumed extraterrestrial warrior, likely en route back to Kronos.

Apart from tracking the tribble’s prodigious propagation, the program will explore practical uses for the creatures. Previous proposals include military and intelligence-gathering applications (such as a tribble bomb or Klingon detector) or as a viable source of food. The menu of Paris’ Café des Artistes includes Tribbles dans les Blankettes (tribbles in a blanket), though some have found the dish gauling. Others have suggested that they be considered as souvenirs for Museum visitors. Detractors consider the creatures about as useful as an ermine violin, soft and furry with a pleasing sound but serving no particular purpose. But while they neither toil nor spin, tribbles have a bright future in sustainable energy, according to STEM in 30 host Beth Wilson. “When you shuffle your socks across the carpet and then shock your brother with the built-up static electricity, that’s the triboelectric effect,” she explained. “The tribbles’ triboelectric potential could provide an energy source that’s 100% clean, apart from the shedding.”

UPDATE: At press time, the number of tribbles has exceeded the Museum’s expectations and contingency plans are in effect. Dr. Weitekamp is unavailable for comment, and is working with contractor Cyrano Jones to acquire a supply of glommers, creatures specially designed to devour surplus tribbles. Preparations are also being made to transport excess specimens to the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. Asked for comment, a Zoo spokesperson said that it would be “no tribble at all. How many could there be?”

Nick Partridge is a public affairs specialist at the National Air and Space Museum, but has not been seen since tribbles overran the communications office. He was last spotted wearing a red shirt.

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Images from the 1961 All Woman’s International Air Race

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Documented in our National Aeronautic Association collection is the 1961 All Woman’s International Air Race that ended in Nassau, Bahamas on May 29. The race hosted 21 contestants over a 909-kilometer (565-mile), island-hopping route. The Ninety-Nines, a group of women pilots formed just a few months after the first Women’s National Air Derby in 1929, helped to organize and manage the race.

Winning Female Pilots Pose with Trophies

The winning team of the 11th Annual All Woman’s International Air Race pose with their trophies. Pilot, Edna Gardner Whyte from Fort Worth, Texas, sits inside her Cessna 120 while copilot, Martha Wright from Grapevine, Texas, shows off one of their trophies. The race concluded in Nassau Bahamas on May 29, 1961. Image: NASM-9A 121703


Pilots Edna Whyte and Copilot Martha Wright inside their Cessna 120

Whyte sits at the controls of her Cessna 120. This was her fourth win at the All Woman’s International Air Race, also known as the “Angel Derby.” Whyte’s student, Martha Wright, served as copilot over the 909-kilomter (565-mile), island-hopping route to win the $1,000 first prize. Image: NASM-9A 12173


Pilot Margaret Callaway checks the right aileron of her Cessna 140

Pilot Margaret Callaway of Wilmington, Ohio, checks the right aileron of her Cessna 140 during the 11th Annual All Woman’s International Air Race in Nassau, Bahamas. Image: NASM-9A 12172


Margaret Callaway and her co-pilot Paula Jane Schultz stand next to their Cessna 140

Margaret Callaway (left) and her copilot Paula Jane Schultz of Cincinnati, Ohio (and weather gal of WCPO-TV), flew this Cessna 140 to win second place and $600 among 21 contestants. Image: NASM-9A 12174


Candid photograph of Margo Callaway

Third place went to Margo Callaway, a 19-year-old scholarship student at the University of Rochester and daughter of the second-place winner, Margaret Callaway. Margo posted a plus performance of 218% with her Cessna 172. Image: NASM-9A 12171

This is just one of the many womens’ air races documented in the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) collection. The collection also holds NAA organizational records, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) license cards, business records, minutes, and correspondence. Learn more about our collection of National Aeronautic Association records.

Tyler Love is an archivist at the National Air and Space Museum and has processed more than 10 different collections including our Arthur C. Clarke collection. Tyler will be sharing more highlights from these collections in the future. 

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Celebrating Women’s History Month: All-Female Flight Crews

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Women’s History Month in the United States began as Women’s History Week in 1982. The event was expanded to the entire month of March in 1987. Throughout the past month, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Air and Space Museum, have sponsored many events for Women’s History Month. On March 28, 1988, just the second official Women’s History Month, an all-female Air Force flight crew flew a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy across the Atlantic Ocean to commemorate the month.

First All-Female Flight Crew

Group photograph of the first all-female flight crew of a U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. This crew flew a European channel mission March 28 to April 4, 1988, originating at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and ending at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, as part of that year’s U.S. Air Force Women’s History Month celebration. Top row, left to right: SSgt Elizabeth Tejera, loadmaster; A1C Marian E. Kellogg, loadmaster; Sgt. Belinda Byrns, loadmaster; TSgt Gail Moore, loadmaster; MSgt Stephanie Leatherman, flight engineer; Sgt. Joan Mullen, loadmaster; MSgt Frances Cardaci, flight engineer; A1C Diane McLendon, loadmaster; SSgt Carol Reese, flight engineer; A1C Tina Klein, crew chief; Ssgt Vicky Feeny, loadmaster Bottom row, left to right: Lt Catricia Mills, maintenance officer; TSgt Donna Lehmann, loadmaster; Capt Karen Torres, copilot; Westbrook; Capt Mary Vanderveere, copilot; Capt Anne Armstrong, copilot; and Capt Carol Ramsey, flight surgeon. Still others were not pictured: A1C Natalie Ziehwein, photographer; Deborah Healy and Judy Dean Clifford, research artists for the Air Force art collection; and Margie Hester, Dover AFB Public Affairs. Image: NASM 9A08694

The C-5 crew that flew from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware consisted of 17 women from the 436th Military Airlift Wing and the 512th Military Airlift Wing (Reserve-Associate), as well as two artists and a photographer. The commander of the flight was Captain Gayle I. Westbrook, who had already made Dover history as the wing’s first female C-5 pilot in 1985. Two years later, she was the first female C-5 pilot to be certified as an aircraft commander.

The seven day airlift mission for the C-5 crew took them from Dover to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina; RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom; Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; and, finally, to Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany.

These women followed a similar flight path to the Air Force’s first all-female flight crew to fly an overseas mission in May 1983 (just one year after the first Women’s History Week). Seven women from the 18th Military Airlift Squadron flew a Lockheed C-141B from McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, to Lajes Field in the Azores, completing the flight at Rhein-Main Air Force Base. The exercise, in addition to evacuating seriously ill American service personnel and family from West Germany to treatment in Washington, DC, was designed to demonstrate the importance and growing presence of women in airborne operations.

American Balloon Service Flyer

First all-female crew to cross the Atlantic, flying a C-141B from McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, to Rhein-Main Air Force Base, Germany. Left to right: Capt Guiliana Sangiorgio, commander; Capt Barbara G. Akin, pilot; 1stLt Terri A. Olinger, copilot; TSgt Donna L. Wertz, flight engineer; SSgt Denise J. Meunier, flight engineer; Sgt Mary K. Eiche, loadmaster; and A1C Bernadette C. Botti, loadmaster. Image: NASM 7B07363

In a New York Times article, Capt Guiliana Sangiorgio, the commander of the mission, stated: “I don’t know if this earns us a place in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records,’ but it’s a big first for the service, and certainly a big accomplishment for us.” She continued, “But the novelty of women flying will wear off in time, and we’ll be better off when it does.”

Copilot 1st Lieutenant Terri Ollinger reflected, “The Air Force has come a long way in accepting women in job fields where only men have been considered in the past. The Air Force has a long way to go yet in continuing to place women in positions of responsibility and career fields, but everything has to start with a crawl before it can move on to a run.” Thirty years later, in 2016, it has just been announced that Air Force General Lori Robinson has been nominated to head U.S. Northern Command, the first American woman to ever head a combatant command.

Elizabeth C. Borja is an archivist in the Museum’s Archives Department.

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A Message to You from Uncle Sam’s First Propaganda Balloon

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Our Archives houses the Technical Reference Files, an important collection of aeronautical and astronautical topics comprised of 1,920 cubic feet of documents, photographs, and ephemera. This important resource is housed in vertical files and is an organic, growing collection to which material is added constantly. Recently, we came across a remarkable document in the Tech Files of the long fight against tuberculosis—shared with you today in recognition of World Tuberculosis Day.

The flyer below is an example of propaganda, in this case dropped from a balloon. We are perhaps most familiar with propaganda distributed to influence the opinion and behavior of soldiers and civilians in and near actual armed conflicts. It can provide factual news of war unavailable to civilian populations, convey terms of surrender to soldiers, or seek to affect the morale of citizens and troops. Because penalties could be severe for those found in possession of enemy propaganda during wartime, propaganda is often rapidly destroyed and therefore may not survive to be preserved in the collections of archives.

American Balloon Service Flyer

This message was dropped from a balloon launched in Akron, Ohio, to help ward off the spread of tuberculosis during World War I. Image: National Air and Space Museum Archives, NASM-9A12597

During the period of the first World War, Colonel A. L. Fuller served as chief of the American Balloon Service. The Army at that time was suffering the loss of personnel, not just to enemy action, but to illness as well. Tuberculosis was widespread and devastating, and no effective treatment had yet been developed. Rates of infection with primary tuberculosis were high in soldiers entering service and military living conditions contributed to a high incidence of secondary tuberculosis. Soldiers who developed debilitating cases of the disease were often sent home, confined in embarkation hospitals until they could be transported overseas in large groups.

To engender awareness on the home front and perhaps contribute to a healthier population of available military personnel, Colonel Fuller employed propaganda flyers, such as this one, dropped from a balloon launched from Akron, Ohio on behalf of the Anti-Tuberculosis Committee of the American Red Cross Society. It advises that, “Tuberculosis may strike you as unexpectedly as this message drops from the balloon in the skies.” It asks the finder to help in the fight against the disease and to provide feedback on the effective distribution of air-dropped propaganda by mailing back information on where it fell.

Propaganda can serve many purposes and in this case, was used in support of a fight against an insidious foe that continues today.

Kate Igoe is an archivist at the National Air and Space Museum

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