NASA’s ‘Forgotten Astronaut’

Who is Michael Collins?

Neil Armstrong may have been the first person to walk on the moon, but he wasn’t the only astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission; someone had to stay onboard the ship.

Molly Fosco writes: Michael Collins is one of three astronauts that were aboard the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. You’re probably a little more familiar with the other two astronauts from the mission, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. That’s because Collins is the only one that didn’t get to actually walk on the moon, which is why he’s sometimes referred to as the “forgotten astronaut.”

Collins was the command module pilot on Apollo 11 so he stayed behind to man the spacecraft while Armstrong and Aldrin took their famous moonwalk. Ultimately, this means that Collins isn’t a household name, but he’s still a very important part of space history. Read the rest of this entry »

Explore the Apollo 11 Command Module in 3D


Erin Blakemore reports Forty-seven years ago, mankind achieved what was once unthinkable when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. But getting him there involved more than strapping the astronaut to a rocket and pressing “go.” Armstrong and his colleagues headed to space in the most advanced spacecraft of their time: the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia. Now, you can explore the module without leaving your couch with the help of a newly-released 3D model that offers unprecedented access to one of history’s most important technological achievements—and the inside scoop on what it was really like to be an Apollo astronaut.

The model is the result of painstaking digitization efforts by the Smithsonian Institution, which houses Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum, and Autodesk, Inc. Given the complexity of the craft—and the fact that photographers weren’t allowed to actually touch it while capturing every nook and cranny—the 3D model is an impressive feat.

It’s available to anyone with an internet connection and offers glimpses unavailable to museum visitors, who are not allowed to explore the inside of the craft. The model can be viewed online, but also comes with publicly available data files for 3-D printing or viewing with virtual reality goggles.

Command Module Spinning Gif

Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins lived in Columbia during their time in space on the Apollo 11 mission, which launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969. Four days later, Aldrin and Armstrong headed to the moon’s surface on the “Eagle” lunar module.

Columbia itself is filled with clues as to life as an early astronaut. While photographing the inside of the module, curators discovered markings made by the astronauts on their mission, including information relayed by mission control and a hand-drawn calendar that documents the journey. The men even scribbled notes to one another on the walls, including a warning about “smelly waste!” that presumably cautioned intrepid explorers to keep away from a certain panel on the cramped craft. Read the rest of this entry »

[PHOTO] President Ronald Reagan Addressing NASA Employees During NASA’s 25th Anniversary Celebration


President Ronald Reagan addressed NASA employees during NASA’s 25th Anniversary celebration at the National Air and Space Museum, October 19, 1983. On stage, around the cake (left to right) are: astronauts Guion Bluford and Dale Gardner (hidden); Dr. William Thornton; Daniel Brandenstein; Richard Truly (hidden); James M. Beggs, NASA Administrator; Dr. Norman Thagard; President Ronald Reagan; John Fabian; Frederick Hauck; David Walker; Dr. Rhea Seddon; Ellison Onizuka; Dr. Anna Fisher; Dr. Steven Hawley.


Chuck Yeagar vs the Sound Barrier

Capt. Charles E. Yeager is in the cockpit of the Bell X-1 supersonic research aircraft. He became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight on October 14, 1947. (Courtesy photo)

“To close hatch on X-1, hindered by my broken ribs, Ridley sawed off a broomstick, gave me a piece. It worked. Then, I broke the sound barrier.”

Megan Crouse writesOn this day in 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager and the X-1 aircraft broke the sound barrier, marking the first time a human flew faster than the speed of sound.

Along with being the first craft to break the sound barrier, the X-1 was one of the first research aircraft ever used by the military. It was built by Bell Aircraft Corporation and used by the Army and the NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, now NASA.) The thin wings and XLR-11 rocket engine propelled it to Mach 1….(read more)


The Bell X-1 displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Image credit: Ad Meskens

What Kind of Ice Cream do Astronauts Eat?


What kind of ice cream do astronauts eat? The regular kind. Freeze-dried “astronaut ice cream,” while popular with our visitors to the National Air and Space Museum, was not popular with actual astronauts (too crumbly). The real deal has been taking off since 2006. Here astronaut Sunita Williams enjoys some with fall apples in 2012.

More about eating dessert in space here.

Air and Space’s blog

This Day in History: Chuck Yeager First to Break the Sound Barrier, Oct. 14, 1947

Capt. Charles E. Yeager is in the cockpit of the Bell X-1 supersonic research aircraft. He became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight on October 14, 1947.

Capt. Charles E. Yeager is in the cockpit of the Bell X-1 supersonic research aircraft. He became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight on October 14, 1947.

 “He had remarkable 20/10 eyesight, tremendous physical coordination, and an uncanny ability to stay focused in stressful situations. Those traits coupled with a competitive streak and his understanding of machinery caught the attention of his instructors.”

Elizabeth Howell, for, June 11, 2014: Chuck Yeager was an American test pilot wh51ZgqYqwuAL._SL250_o was the first person to break the sound barrier — the point where a speeding object (such as an airplane) passes the speed of sound.

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Yeager made his history-setting flight on Oct. 14, 1947 in an airplane he dubbed Glamorous Glennis, after his wife. The Bell X-1 rocket plane (which today hangs in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum) passed Mach 1 following a drop from a B-29 airplane.

Chuck Yeager, The Right Stuff.

[Everything Chuck Yeager at]

The monumental “top secret” event was kept classified until 1948, but once it hit the public airwaves, Yeager became a celebrity. He also received a prestigious aviation award called the Collier Trophy, which called his flight the greatest achievement in aviation since the Wright brothers first took flight in 1903.chuck-yeager-portrait

“Yeager continued his flight testing duties for many years after breaking the sound barrier, including testing Lockheed’s XF-104, an aircraft that was capable of going double the speed of sound.”

Yeager had a colorful aviation career long even before breaking the Mach barrier. Born in 1923 in a small town near Hamlin, West Virginia, Yeager grew up working on his father’s pickup trucks, according to Yeager’s website.

His high school graduation in 1941 took place just six months before the United States entered World War II that December. By that point, Yeager was a young member of the Army Air Corps. He was tapped for flight training in July 1942, and quickly distinguished himself among his peers.

“He had remarkable 20/10 eyesight, tremendous physical coordination, and an uncanny ability to stay focused in stressful situations. Those traits coupled with a 513SsJ0RC1L._SL250_competitive streak and his understanding of machinery caught the attention of his instructors,” his website stated.

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Yeager received his pilot wings in 1943 and served in WWII, flying 64 combat missions for 270 hours in Europe. He was shot down on March 5, 1944, over Bordeaux, France, but with the assistance of French resistance movement the Maquis, Yeager made it back to neutral territory a few weeks later.

Capt. Charles E. Yeager and Bell X-1 - Portrait

Breaking the barrier

Following the war, one of Yeager’s assignments as an assistant maintenance officer in the fighter section at the Flight Test Division in Wright Field, Ohio. Yeager’s website describes the location as “the center of Army Air Forces R and D [research and development]”, and said his main assignment was to fly the fighters being developed there. Read the rest of this entry »

Air and Space Artifacts to Get New Display in D.C.

National Air and Space Museum (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

National Air and Space Museum (Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Some of the most iconic artifacts of aviation and space history will be getting an updated display for the 21st century, with the Apollo moon landing as the centerpiece.

“We’re trying to figure out what the museum needs to do to stay in touch. We want to inspire people of all ages to want to know more and to do more.”

— Museum Director J.R. “Jack” Dailey

For the first time since its 1976 opening, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum plans to overhaul its central exhibition showing the milestones of flight. The extensive renovation announced Thursday will be carried out over the next two years with portions of the exhibit closing temporarily over time, said Museum Director J.R. “Jack” Dailey.

Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” aircraft from the first trans-Atlantic flight, John Glenn’s Mercury capsule from his first Earth orbit and an Apollo Lunar Module recalling America’s first moon landing will be among the key pieces to be featured. Such artifacts have made the Air and Space Museum the nation’s most-visited museum, drawing 7 million to 8 million visitors each year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Witness: Man apparently sets himself on fire on National Mall

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Law enforcement and medical personnel rushed to Washington’s National Mall on Friday afternoon to assist a man who reportedly set himself on fire.

Officer Hugh Carew, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said the initial report was the man was conscious and breathing. Carew could not confirm how the fire had started.

Adam Stifel saw part of the incident as he was running.

“I saw a man sitting in flames,” Stifel told CNN. “He had already doused himself in gasoline, I believe.”

Stifel said five or six people used their shirts to pat out the fire. He said he saw a red gasoline canister near the man.

The incident occurred near the National Air and Space Museum. The man was airlifted out to receive medical care.

The location where the man was found on fire is about six blocks from the U.S. Capitol, where a high speed car chase on Thursday ended with a woman being shot and killed by law enforcement officers.