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Author: National Air and Space Museum

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The National Air and Space Museum contains the largest and most significant collection of air- and spacecraft in the world. Behind those amazing machines are thousands of stories of human achievement, failure, and perseverance. Join Emily, Matt, and Nick as they demystify one of the world’s most visited museums and explore why people are so fascinated with stories of exploration, innovation, and discovery.
72 Episodes
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Nine Voices

Nine Voices

2021-06-2424:39

We’re all movie buffs here at AirSpace *gestures to extensive movie episode back catalog.* And while we’re not exactly film critics, we know what we like—and we love when people see themselves represented in their favorite stories. And a long time ago (2013), and not so far away (New Mexico), a group embarked on a quest of their own: to translate Star Wars: A New Hope into Navajo. Their goal was to help preserve the language by introducing it to new generations and audiences beyond the reservation. In this episode, we’ll recount our decade+ hero’s journey from the call to action, to seeking a greenlight from Lucasfilm, to finding the translators and voice actors, creating whole new words for terms like “lightsaber” and “droid,” and finally the triumphant fanfare of a live audience seeing the famous opening crawl for the first time in their language. A herculean grassroots effort to create the first indigenous translation of a major motion picture has become a movement to interpret other indelible pieces of pop culture from Finding Nemo to Baby Shark. Hear how it all started today on AirSpace.
Chicago Flyer

Chicago Flyer

2021-06-1029:07

In the early days of aviation flying was dangerous and expensive. Even if you could afford it, societal barriers in the United States kept many would-be pilots grounded. In this episode, we’re telling the story of how pioneering Black aviators improvised, innovated, and overcame those barriers to fulfill their dreams of flight. Across the U.S., Black aviators banded together to form clubs to instruct others and grow interest in aviation. In Chicago, the Challenger Air Pilots Association cultivated a community that has since helped thousands of Black pilots learn how to fly. And it all started with a broken down car.
Safety Dance

Safety Dance

2021-05-2715:55

If you’ve flown commercial, you’re familiar with the preflight safety spiel (and if you’ve only ever flown private, we wanna know why, but it’ll have to be a different episode). You know the moves: stow your tray tables, life vests are under the seat, insert the metal end into the buckle until it clicks, and please don’t forget the nearest exit may be behind you. Frequent fliers can probably recite these instructions in their sleep, and we have a whole selfcare philosophy based around securing your own oxygen mask before helping others. But in the last 15 years or so, the safety presentation has become a cinematic celebre -- with everything from famous actors, eye-catching FX, and even Marvel superheroes. Emily, Matt, and Nick dive into the history of the inflight safety briefing to better understand the evolution from straight-forward instruction to Hollywood production, and an expert in cabin safety weighs in on whether these flashy videos  actually make air travel safer. Please note the no smoking light will remain on throughout today’s episode, and remember to remain seated until the pilot turns off the seatbelt sign.
Art Decade

Art Decade

2021-05-1324:22

Did you know the National Air and Space Museum has a huge art collection? Yeah, we keep that secret pretty well. It all STEMs (see what we did there?) from a program organized by NASA beginning in the 1960s where a small number of American artists got tons of access to launch sites, clean rooms, space suits, spacecraft—you name it, they painted it. The result was thousands of works that represented some (but not all, not by a long shot) of the most important art ever inspired by space exploration. On today’s show, we sketch out the origin story of a space agency art’s program, explain where our museum enters the picture, and explore works within and beyond the NASA art scene.
Homesick at Space Camp

Homesick at Space Camp

2021-04-2215:57

Any child of the 80s or 90s knows about Space Camp. Even if you didn’t attend, you likely have an image of it burned into your brain – the flight suits, the teamwork, the spinning contraption that makes you hurl (aka the multi-axis trainer). Born at the dawn of the Shuttle era, Space Camp has given nearly a million campers a taste of astronaut life, inspired thousands of students to pursue STEM fields, and even gave some real astronauts an early boost. But, what’s its origin story? And how did it become such a part of the millennial zeitgeist? (Even Mary Kate and Ashley solved a Space Camp mystery—spoiler alert: it was woodpeckers). Emily, Matt, and Nick break it down.   
Say My Name

Say My Name

2021-04-0812:02

Have you ever wondered how the stuff in space gets named? Sure, names like Earth, Venus, and Mars have been canon for *forever.* But lest you think naming is all about Greek and Roman mythology, think again. Six of Titan’s hills are named after Lord of the Rings characters. Seriously. These days, there’s one organization that approves and keeps track of ALL of the official names from stars and asteroids to mountains on Mars and geysers on Enceladus. We break down the naming process and some of our favorites on today’s episode!
Today we’re tackling something we’ve wanted to talk about for a long time (which is relative, because time and space lose all meaning there). They’re incredibly dense, super cool, and mind-bendingly-mysterious -- BLACK HOLES! But how do you imagine – let alone study—the unseeable? And seriously—what happened at the end of “Interstellar?” The concept of black holes isn’t new—scientists first theorized their existence in the early 20th century. But in the last few years our knowledge of black holes has expanded – from confirmation of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (it really ties the galaxy together) to the first-ever image of a black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope. We’re now making direct observations that prove their existence. And just yesterday(!) scientists released an image of a black hole in polarized light, with signs of magnetic fields around the event horizon. And if you don’t understand what that means, you’re not alone!! We’re all on this magic school bus of discovery together – come abroad, it’s going to be a wild ride!
Water Me

Water Me

2021-03-1114:48

Did you hear they found water on the Moon? Or was it Mars? No wait, Mercury? An asteroid? It seems like every time there’s big news from outer space, it’s that we found water some place—as traces of ice or wisps of vapor, embedded in rocks or bound up in dry-as-dirt-regolith. What’s so special about a few molecules of H20 trapped in the ground millions of miles away? How do we even spot that from Earth? Today, Matt, Nick, and Emily explore how we search for wet spots in the solar system, what they can tell us about our home planet, and why they’re the key to making our way in the universe. Today on AirSpace: Water—where is it and why we care?
Nicotine Stain

Nicotine Stain

2021-02-2522:26

We’ll admit that we’re getting a little nostalgic about even the most mundane aspects of air travel – like how many times the pre-flight safety video reminds you that smoking is NOT permitted onboard. But that got us thinking – that wasn’t always the case. So what changed? It took decades of research, lobbying, and litigation to prove the dangers of secondhand smoke, and a lot of that work happened at cruising altitude. In this episode, we’ll hear how flight attendants were instrumental in the fight to get smoking OUT of the skies, and how the lawsuit they brought against the tobacco companies had huge ripple effects in the smoke-free public places we enjoy today. Did you know AirSpace has a newsletter?!? Get on the list HERE.
Cool It Now

Cool It Now

2021-02-1125:40

Welcome to Season 4 of AirSpace! Right now COVID-19 vaccines are traveling across the country and around the world – and air travel is a critical component of this supply chain. These vaccines were not only developed in record time (shout out to SCIENCE!) but some of them also have to be kept at record cold temperatures. To meet this challenge, distributors are relying on the cold chain – a supply line that keeps things cold (and sometimes super cold) from ‘source to sink’ (and hopefully soon, into your arm). On today’s episode we’re breaking down the history of the cold chain and how air safety plays a part (particularly with all that dry ice). And Emily has the best analogy of a lipid bilayer that you’ve ever heard.
Never Surrender

Never Surrender

2020-12-2416:11

What a year it has been (alt: Ugh, what a year!). Back in April, we launched our AirSpace Movie Club—and critiquing our favorite air-and-space-films was a fun way to stay in touch remotely until we could get back into the studio for Season 3. Well, 16 episodes and eight months later, we’re still recording from home, so we thought we’d end season 3 back where we started: at the movies! It’s safe to say that the AirSpace pod loves Galaxy Quest, but doesn’t everyone!? It has it all: sci-fi, action, and comedy, an underdog who saves the day, and feel good story with space aliens! For the Trekkies among us, it’s an unswerving love letter to the importance of fans in any successful franchise. In the final episode of season 3, Emily, Matt, and Nick discuss why this is the movie to watch with your family this holiday season. Also! We’ll be baaaaack! This is the end of season 3, but we won’t be gone for long! We have a few tricks up our sleeve in January (and Voyages to Mars continues!). And then, we’ll be back before you know it in February! See? So soon!!
Blinded by the Light

Blinded by the Light

2020-12-1015:26

Did you learn the constellations as a child? Odds are, if you lived in a city, you saw more stars in the classroom—or a planetarium if you were lucky—than by looking at the night sky (and if not, we’re jealous). Fact is, most of us live in places that give us a less than ideal view of the stars because of light pollution from our cities and suburbs. But keeping our skies dark is important for so many reasons – for nocturnal animals, for science and astronomy, and for cultural traditions around the world. In this episode, we’re shining a light on the cultural importance of the night sky for native Hawaiians. Turn down the lights and enjoy!  
Station to Station

Station to Station

2020-11-2614:22

This month marks the 20th birthday of the International Space Station! That’s 240 straight months—which is exactly how long 2020 feels so far. We all need a little self-care these days, so in honor of the ISS anniversary, we’ll tell you about what astronaut life is like when they aren’t doing the extraordinary science, essential maintenance, and extraterrestrial chores necessary to sustain our home in space. Believe it or not, astronauts get days off too! Find out how they spend their downtime on this episode of AirSpace.
Fly Girl

Fly Girl

2020-11-1238:17

On this episode of AirSpace we’re spotlighting the heroic service and enduring legacy of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. More than 1000 of these fearless women flew as civilians for the Army Air Forces during World War II. These skilled pilots performed jobs on the home front – ferrying planes, towing targets, transporting personnel – flying almost every type of military aircraft. Yet despite filling a crucial wartime role, these women weren’t recognized as veterans for more than 30 years. And their campaign to be permitted burial in Arlington National Cemetery lasted even longer.  In this episode, we’re welcoming our first ever guest host, historian and author Dr. Katherine Sharp Landdeck. And we’ll hear firsthand from three women connected to the WASP legacy, including a WASP herself, Nell “Mickey” Bright.
Open the Gate

Open the Gate

2020-10-2232:17

Can 650 episodes of a tv show fix society’s deepest, ugliest ills? Maybe not, but it turns out that it’s a pretty good place to start a conversation. We’re all fans of something—movies, tv shows, video games, comic books, sports teams, you name it!—and that can help us connect with new people with shared interests and frames of reference. In this episode, we’re talking about how and why fan communities form, and what happens when the barrier to entry turns toxic and targeted. “Fandoms” aren’t new—they stretch back at least a century in their modern form—but the internet provided a new kind of platform for geeking out, and unfortunately, for airing underlying and overt biases. Misogyny, racism, agism, ableism—all of the problems we struggle with as a society at large happen in fan spaces, but fandoms also create opportunities to connect across divisions. We’ll talk to Blerdcon co-founder Hilton George about creating a dedicated space for the Black nerd experience, and journalist and This American Life producer Bim Adewunmi about the obstacles for engaging with each other through our favorite media—and how we can do better. It’s gatekeeping and pulling down barriers—today on AirSpace.
Danger Zone

Danger Zone

2020-10-0817:121

There have been great movies about military aviation for almost as long as there have been movies and airplanes—seriously, the very first Best Picture Oscar went to a WWI aero-epic called Wings (and if you ever win bar trivia with that, buy us a drink). Eventually, the US military realized that high adventure onscreen could boost their recruiting efforts, and began to officially cooperate with films featuring flying service members. In this episode, we’ll look at two movies staring iconic aviators—Top Gun and Captain Marvel—and discuss how the military leans into their role as supporting players on the silver screen.
The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home

2020-09-2414:491

About 82,000 American service members are listed as Missing in Action – 72,000 from World War II alone. Many of these MIAs were lost at sea when their aircraft were shot down over open water. Recent technologies like robotic submersibles, advanced sonar, and DNA matching are making it easier for recovery operations to find the downed airplanes, and identify the remains of service members. In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick tell the story of one of those service members, from an aerial battle in the Pacific in 1944, to recovery and repatriation more than 70 years later. And we hear from the head of one of these recovery organizations who describes the herculean effort and coordination that goes into each recovery operation, all with the goal of providing an honorable homecoming to the fallen.
Me and the Sky

Me and the Sky

2020-09-1031:17

If you’re a Broadway fan (or have been ANYWHERE near a theater in the last couple years), you’ve likely heard about Come From Away—the Tony-award-winning smash hit musical with a story firmly rooted in generations of aviation history. On September 11, 2001, 38 commercial airliners were diverted out of US air space to a small town with a big airport called Gander, Newfoundland. Come From Away puts a spotlight on Beverley Bass, American Airlines’ first woman Captain who commanded one of the aircraft. Nick sits down with Beverley to hear the story of her incredible career firsthand, and Emily talks to Come from Away’s writers, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, to learn how they were inspired to write an entire musical about the biggest aviation hub you’ve likely never heard of. Early aviation history, pioneering pilots, and one community’s story of unity on a day of infamy—there’s a lot going on in this episode (but still no intermission).
The Greatest Discovery

The Greatest Discovery

2020-08-2715:45

If you had $500 MILLION dollars to spend going anywhere in the solar system (rocket not included), where would YOU go? That’s exactly what NASA asks scientists in its Discovery Program – a (relatively) low budget, but influential, class of missions designed to increase our understanding of our stellar neighborhood through creative concepts that don’t quite fit anywhere else.  Think of them as the indie movies of space exploration…they may cost less, but they more than make up for it with bold ideas and chutzpah. Emily, Matt, and Nick discuss the four potential missions currently under consideration, and Emily speaks with Dr. Louise Proctor, the principle investigator of the proposed Trident mission to Neptune’s moon Triton.
With everyone quarantining, it’s like spring cleaning never ended this year—and as important as cleanliness is here on Earth, it’s really, really important when you’re headed for outer space.  We’ve talked about planetary protection on the pod before, but it’s never felt closer to home than now, so we’re digging a little deeper into what it takes to keep our planet safe from space germs and keep space safe from Earth germs. On today’s show Emily, Matt, and Nick get into the (dirty) details of how we ensured that our astronauts didn’t bring home bugs from the Moon with our Apollo curator Teasel Muir-Harmony, and look at the (squeaky clean) ways we make sure terrestrial microbes aren’t hitchhiking their way to Mars with NASA Planetary Protection Officer Lisa Pratt. Wash your hands and enjoy!
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Comments (2)

Im Watching You

Vote Trump in 2020 and keep us out of the danger zone... known as socialism.

Oct 8th
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Im Watching You

Awesome episode! Very interesting.

Jul 10th
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