The Space Shuttle Discovery was moved to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near the Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC. I had a chance to visit the Air & Space Museum in May and thought I would share my photos of the shuttle.
I came across this series of posters and thought they were amazing! They are historically accurate and highlight some of the more bad ass historical figures. They were created by a two students, Jenny Burrows and Matt Kappler, for a school project. You can read more about their posters and download them at their WEBSITE. These posters have been very popular online because they were thought to have been created by the Smithsonian. While they were not made by any museum, they are still fun! Enjoy!
Last week marked the end of the historic Space Shuttle era of exploration. Over the past 30 years, the Space Shuttle is responsible for the launch of countless space probes and satellites that have broadened our knowledge of the Universes. Many of these probes and satellites are functional today and are providing NASA with massive databanks of information. It is hard to believe that the program was ended, but its accomplishments have been extraordinary.
Before we recognize the accomplishments of the program, we must honor those lost as a result of it. The crew of Space Shuttle Challenger were lost January 28, 1986 when the shuttle exploded 76 seconds after takeoff. The crew consisted of: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik. Following the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle program was put on hold to investigate the disaster and ensure the shuttles were safe for future missions.
The second incident occurred February 1, 2003 when Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry due to damage to heat resistant tiles during the shuttle’s launch. The crew consisted of: Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, and Laurel Clark. Again, NASA halted the program to ensure the shuttles were safe. Many believe this led to the end of the Space Shuttle program. Many felt the shuttles were beginning to show their age and the funds necessary to revamp the shuttles was not available.
The Space Shuttle program was successful in many other aspects of space exploration. Here are some facts and figures from the past 31 years:
-System length: 184.2 ft
-Orbiter length: 122.17 ft.
-External Tank length: 153.8 ft.
-Solid Rocket Boosters length: 149.16 ft.
-System height: 76.6 ft.
-Orbiter height: 56.58 ft
-Orbiter wingspan: 78.06 ft.
-Gross take-off weight: 4.5 million lbs.
-SRBs(2): 3,300,000 lbs. Thrust each in vacuum
-Main Engines (3): 393,800 lbs. Thrust each at sea level at 104 percent
-Cargo bay: 60 ft. long, 15 ft. diameter
-Enterprise – NEVER FLOWN
-Columbia - 28 missions, first launched: Apr 12, 1981
-Challenger - 10 missions, first launched: Apr 04, 1983
-Discovery - 39 missions, first launched: Aug 30, 1984
-Atlantis - 32 missions, first launched: Oct 03, 1985
-Endeavour - 25 missions, first launched: May 07, 1992
There are simply too many accomplishments to list! From the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope to the countless missions to the International Space Station, the Space Shuttles have been at the cutting edge of space eduction. There are still missions within NASA to get exited about, such as New Horizons mission to Pluto, but there will be a big gap without the occasional launch of a space shuttle. We will be able to enjoy these marvels of technology, however. NASA announced that each Space Shuttle would be sent to a new home in its retirement. The shuttles will be sent to:
-Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida
-Endeavour: the California Science Center in Los Angeles
-Discovery: the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia
-Enterprise: the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York (moved from its current location at the Smithsonian)
The Space Shuttles will likely not be moved until 2012, but it will be exiting to see them in person. The launch of a Space Shuttle is one of the most awesome spectacles that I have ever witnessed (never in person, unfortunately), so I leave you with an image of a rare, but spectacular, night launch.
I could not think of a better post to conclude the Public History series with than one on Memory because it plays into EVERY aspect of the discipline. The key word in public history is “public.” We create a link between academic history and the public by making history accessible by everyone. Memory, in this case, is not a singular term, but a collective term. The term most often used is “American Memory” and it is very important for public historians to understand. The knowledge that slavery was bad and immoral is pretty common, and it is a negative memory within the American population, but that does not make it, and other controversial topics, easy to display.
Slavery, and other controversial topics are difficult to deal within a museum. A museum that chooses to ignore the topic tends to enrage a portion of the population, but those that demonize slaveholders anger yet another part of the population. Presenting such a controversial topic has been done in many ways. One way, which causes a great amount of publicity, took place a few years ago at Colonial Williamsburg. They held a mock slave auction in the town square. This would have been a common occurrence in the Colonial Era, but was not something the public was interested in in the early Twenty-First Century. It caused a lot of controversy and they have not attempted to do it again. Slavery is still discussed within Williamsburg and they even offer a tour that focuses specifically on slavery within a colonial town.
The other, and more famous, example of a controversial museum display was the Enola Gay. In 2003, the Enola Gay went on display at the Smithsonian and was presented in such a way that angered those who were against the use of the bomb as well as Japanese-Americans. The Smithsonian did correct the display, but the results upset veterans whose lives were, arguably, saved by the use of the atomic bomb to end World War II. The Smithsonian solved the dilemma by taking down the display and leaving the aircraft on display with no interpretation. The Smithsonian took the easy way out. The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. is controversial, but they have not close their doors in response to protests.
The key to remember when it comes to memory is that there are two sides to the same story. The Civil War is a great example of this. It is nearly impossible to make everyone happy when displaying any controversial topic in history; therefore, it is important to display the history in a way that is truthful and unbiased. Allow the visitor to draw his/her own conclusions.
Memory is such a great topic to complete the series because it really does play a key role in how we present the history in all the sub-disciplines of Public History: local/regional history, oral history, historic preservation, documentary editing, museum studies, documentary film and visual arts, historical archaeology, and archival work.
It is important to remember that Public Historians are ultimately working to educate the public and should be wary that some events could be painful or offensive to a portion of the population. This does not mean, however, that it should be brushed over or ignored. This is, I believe, where public historians differ from academic historians. Academic historians write for each other, and there are not many within the public that read academic journals or books. It is important for public historians to use the academic techniques to present history to the public in a way that is accurate and unbiased. That is the goal of myself and the goal of Public Historians.
NOTE: This is the tenth and final post in a ten part series on Public History. The posts from the series will be presented on Wednesdays and Saturdays from now until April 6. A wide variety of aspects will be covered and I will try to present an unbiased account of the positive and negative aspects of each subcategory of Public History.