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.
They say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, particularly when you’re looking for signs of extraterrestrial life. Is that a Martian bacterium you just found, or is it an Earth bug accidentally along for the ride? An Israeli spacecraft recently crashed on the Moon, unintentionally spilling a payload of adorable, microscopic extremophiles called tardigrades (aka water bears or moss piglets). Tardigrades can survive a lot of harsh environments, including the hard vacuum of space, and may now be alive on the lunar surface. In the final episode of season 2, Emily, Nick, and Matt discuss the implications of tardigrades on the Moon, and why scientists are working hard to ensure that microbes from Earth aren’t contaminating our search for life in the solar system. Water Bears on the Moon! Planetary Defense! Outer Space Law!
There are more than a dozen Earth-born satellites orbiting Mars. Why send another? Today’s episode highlights a movie with answers…Science to be done! Engineering challenges to overcome! National prestige! Personal Moonshots! Because it’s there!
Based on India’s 2014 Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the new Hindi-language film Mission Mangal has all of this and more, plus all the energy and charm of a genre-melding Bollywood feature. Why do countries invest in space exploration, why do people devote their careers to places millions of miles away, and what does all of this have to do with fried bread? Emily, Matt, and Nick unpack story behind their new favorite space movie (yes, it’s even better than Armageddon!).
Today on the show, we tackle the meaning of life. Well… not really. But definitely matters of consequence. We are talking about the beloved children’s book that taught us the meaning of friendship and the value of a child-like perspective – The Little Prince. Odds are you’ve read the book – but do you know the story behind the parable? Nick sits down with biographer Stacey Schiff and journalist Martin Buckley to unravel the larger-than-life story of the book’s author (and famous flier) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Hear how this hero of early French aviation called on his life experience and personal philosophy to pen one of the most widely read stories of ALL time. PLUS crash landings, asteroids, and war stories!
Alt title: ADAM SAVAGE IS IN THIS EPISODE! Today we’re talking about a really cool project that brought together one former-Mythbuster, a couple of Smithsonian units, and makers across the country to reimagine an incredible piece of Apollo engineering. The hatch (aka door) on the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia is SUPER complex and basically irresistible if you’re into solving mechanical puzzles – so much so that master builders Adam Savage and Jen Schachter wanted to recreate it with the help of a few dozen friends. They brought together 44 artists and engineers from across the country to fabricate individual components of the hatch using 3D-scan data from the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office. Then Adam and team assembled it live at the Museum in DC during the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. On this episode we hear what happens when lasers, power tools, and a live studio audience (safely) collide!
P.S. Want to build your own Apollo 11 hatch? Visit 3d.si.edu/apollo11cmhatch to view the 3D model and download the .stl files and drawings used by the Project Egress team. Post your photos and tag #ProjectEgress!
Today (tonight?) we’re talking about a chilling chapter from flight history— Night Bomber Regiment 588. They were a group of about 80 Soviet women who flew combat missions during World War II. Led by famous Russian pilot Marina Raskova, these fearless aviatrixes would fly across German lines under cover of darkness and drop bombs from their rickety crop-duster bi-planes, striking targets on the ground and terror in the hearts of their enemies. They became so feared by the German army that they were dubbed the die Nachthexen, or the Night Witches. This isn’t a lame Halloween story, this is badass history.
Next week is the 50th anniversary of our first steps on the Moon! In our last exciting episode, we explored all the science the Apollo astronauts performed on the lunar surface. In part two, we’re talking about the important science still happening with Apollo Moon rocks here on Earth a half-century later. Of all the 842 pounds of lunar material the astronauts collected up there, three samples were sealed away for scientists to study far in the future. And the future is now! We’ll speak to two scientists from NASA Goddard who will be working with the heretofore sealed samples, which are still in pristine, untouched condition from when astronauts of yesteryear plucked them off our nearest celestial neighbor. And Emily speaks to Lunar geologist Dr. Jennifer Whitten who’s working on a proposal to send a rover back to the Moon to carry on Apollo’s legacy of lunar exploration. Lunar science of the future happens now!
50 years ago this July, humans set foot on the Moon for the first time. You probably know the highlights – Kennedy’s moonshot challenge, Armstrong’s first small steps, three astronauts returned safely to Earth – but there was more to the Apollo program than getting there and back. When we landed Americans on the Moon, there was a lot we didn’t know about our nearest celestial neighbor. Would the astronauts sink into the lunar dust like quicksand? Would they encounter extraterrestrial germs and bring them back to infect the Earth? What would could rocks and dirt (regolith, actually) tell us about how the Moon formed? To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, AirSpace examines what we knew then, what we know now, and what mysteries of lunar science still remain. And we’ll admit, we’re just a *little *excited about the upcoming anniversary. So much so, this is part ONE of TWO.
What music would you take along on a quarter-million mile road trip? For the crew of Apollo 11, it was a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, and a little bit of… theremin?! In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick discuss the music of the cosmos, or at least what makes a good lunar soundtrack. Matt interviews one of his childhood heroes—Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull—who breaks down his song inspired by Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot (and first director of the National Air and Space Museum!), Michael Collins. And we find out what visitors to the world’s largest space party would put on their Moonshot mixtape.
Some of the world’s best pilots are the ones you hope never to see. They fly into places too dangerous for others to navigate, braving extremes to save human lives. In this episode, we’re talking about air rescue. Nick speaks to Chris Kilgore, a Coast Guard search and rescue pilot who evacuated survivors from an oil tanker collision in Galveston Bay. And we hear from AirSpace listener and air ambulance pilot Brian Shaw who serves remote communities in Canada, sometimes flying into airports that are not much more than a clearing in the trees.
Be advised, this episode contains dramatic rescue stories and has descriptions that some listeners might find disturbing.
Space exploration is a geocentric endeavor. Everywhere we look in the solar system, we learn something new about Earth. Scientists believe our planet has a metallic inner core, but we can’t exactly crack it open and check. Instead, NASA is sending a mission to an asteroid named Psyche, which appears to be a nickel-iron planetary core a lot like the one at the center of the Earth. Heavy metal fans Emily and Matt discuss this mission to pick up the pieces of an early protoplanet to better understand the ground beneath our feet.
Special thanks to: Exzel Music Publishing for use of Chopin Scherzo no.1, also Noise Noir, Bristol Stories and Scampsie.
In this special episode recorded at SXSW, Emily, Matt, and Nick recount stories of failure and how they’ve inspired a whole lot of success in science and space exploration. From how the failed Concorde led to important scientific research and a better understanding of our world, to how the crew of Apollo 13 overcame malfunction by having simulated every possible scenario, the hosts explore how failure doesn’t always mean catastrophe. And special guest Bobak Ferdowsi from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory discusses how the NASA culture embraces the possibility of failure by testing and planning for every conceivable outcome.
Special thanks to our host, the Aerospace Industries Association!
On this episode of AirSpace we’re talking about the most *exclusive *form of public transportation – presidential flight. When you’re the President, flying on Air Force One has its perks, but what about when you’re the one at the controls? And what’s it like to hitch a ride on one of the most recognizable aircraft on Earth?
Air Force historian Dr. Brian Laslie explains how Air Force One became an icon of aviation, and former NPR White House reporter Scott Horsley talks about his experience riding in the press cabin (spoiler – no checked
luggage!). And Nick caught up with former Marine One pilot Matt Howard who recounted what it’s like to fly the President in good times and during one of the worst times imaginable.
As you may have heard, astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to perform a spacewalk today. It would have been the first all-woman spacewalk in history. Based on feedback from McClain following her March 22 spacewalk, NASA decided to alter the astronaut assignments. Why the change? AirSpace hosts Emily, Matt, and Nick break down the multiple factors at play.
AirSpace listeners know that no space mission is complete without a cool name, and there’s no “higher” recognition than having a space probe named in your honor (see what we did there?). When we heard that the European Space Agency named its new Mars rover after our favorite British molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin, we were so stoked. Franklin played a key role in unraveling of the structure of DNA, but she hasn’t always gotten the recognition she deserved for that critical contribution. Our intrepid hosts explore the legacy of the real Rosalind Franklin, who helped us understand life on Earth, and the future of her namesake robot, who is going to search for signs of life on Mars.
Welcome to SEASON 2 of AirSpace! We’re back with more stories that defy gravity, and in this exciting episode, we’ll hear about one man’s terrifying ordeal trying to get back down to the ground.
Longtime listeners know that bailing out of an airplane is a last resort that pilots take very seriously. But what happens when you unwittingly eject straight into a thundercloud? The already-harrowing journey to safe ground becomes a rollercoaster of howling wind, pounding hail and deafening thunderclaps. Emily, Matt, and Nick will talk to experts who know just how dangerous cumulonimbus clouds can be, and explore the story of William Rankin, who found out firsthand.
You probably know that shooting stars aren’t really stars, but what ARE you seeing? Emily, Matt, and Nick give a download on why meteor showers occur, when’s the best time to watch, and what you’re looking at (spoiler: most meteors are A LOT smaller than you think). So bundle up, grab your headphones, and get a crash-course on everything you need to know while enjoying the Ursid shower on December 22nd.
We’re hard at work on new episodes! AirSpace will be back with SEASON 2 in March! Can’t wait that long? Check out our instagram @airspacepodcast for behind-the-scenes content!
Flying in space is precise, technical, and surprisingly personal. Most astronauts are pilots, scientists, or engineers, but they’re also, you know, people. And seeing the Earth from space for the first time is invariably a profound experience. In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick will unpack the often philosophical, sometimes spiritual reactions to viewing of Earth from above. We’ll start with Nick’s all-time favorite Christmas story, Apollo 8’s 1968 Christmas Eve broadcast from the Moon, and the mission’s famous photo of Earth that sparked an ecological revolution here on the ground. We’ll also chat with astronaut Nicole Stott about her experience in orbit, and how it influences her life and work back on Earth.
Have you heard? NASA’s InSight lander is set to touchdown on Mars next Monday, November 26. So, grab your popcorn and leftover turkey and get ready to witness the latest Martian robot land on the Red Planet. InSight, aka Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (holy acronyms, NASA!), is on a quest to understand the insides of the planet. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what Mars looks like beneath the surface or how that material is layered. In layperson’s terms - is Mars more like a hard-boiled egg or a soft-boiled egg? Food metaphors aside, discovering how much of Mars's core is liquid is one question (among many) that can help us better understand how planets age, cool, and change, ultimately providing huge insight into our own Earth.
This fall has got us hooked on space movies. So, Emily, Matt, and Nick decided to rewatch the 1998 film Armageddon to see how many inaccuracies they could find. And if we needed an excuse for this exercise (really, we didn’t), Armageddon just celebrated its 20th birthday (and now we feel old). In this episode, we list our favorite inaccuracies and highlight a few things that seemed ridiculous, but actually turned out to be true. Also, Nick talks with Bobbie Faye Ferguson, who was the official NASA liaison on the film, about what it was like to bring Hollywood to real NASA locations and why the agency chose to be so closely involved with a popcorn movie. And Matt can’t help but repeatedly serenade us with the sweet musical stylings of Aerosmith. You don’t want to miss this one!
AirSpace hosts give their take on First Man, the new biopic about the original Moon-walker Neil Armstrong. Starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy and directed by Damien Chazelle, First Man recounts Armstrong’s life during the eight-year period before the Moon landing in 1969. In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick share what the movie got right and provide a little more background on some of the historical players, other NASA missions, and cultural context that don’t get a full treatment. If you’ve seen the film, consider this a supplement that makes it even better. And if you haven’t, we’ll give you enough of the highlights to be dinner-party literate. But beware, spoilers!
Wildfire season is getting longer, according to the US Forest Service, making firefighting a bigger, more vital operation each year. In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick take a look at how the pros fight wildfires with everything from large water-carrying airtankers and helicopters to daring smokejumpers who parachute into the blaze strapped with axes, shovels, and chainsaws. We’ll introduce you to a few of the people who put their lives on the line to keep us and our forests safe and discuss how changes in technology, climate, and communication are impacting aerial firefighting.
We’ll hear from Chelsea Cough, a smokejumper based in Missoula, Montana, about what it’s like to parachute into forest fires too remote to reach over land. And Matt travels out to Utah to the site of an active wildfire where over 1000 people were involved in coordinated air and ground efforts to contain and suppress the flames.
As part of NASA’s Teacher in Space Program, Christa McAuliffe prepared lesson plans and lectures to beam into classrooms from orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. She, and the rest of the Challenger crew, were lost when the Shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after launch. This episode is about the lessons she had planned to perform in space, which now form an important part of her legacy.
Christa planned six science activities, known as the six lost lessons, that were to be used as educational resources for students around the world. The Challenger Center, in partnership with NASA and STEM on Station, worked with astronauts Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba to film these demonstrations on the International Space Station and complete these lessons.
Emily, Matt, and Nick reflect on the Teacher in Space program, the lost lessons, and the impact McAuliffe had on a generation of students, teachers, and astronauts.
You can find more information about Christa McAuliffe’s lost lessons, including videos, lesson plans, and other STEM resources at challenger.org.
Want to know what it’s like in outer space? Your best bet is under the sea. Life on a deep-space mission may be a lot like life in a deep-sea submersible, and the extreme environments found on the sea floor may give us clues as to where to look for life on other planets. In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick talk deep-sea diving, marine microbes, prog rock, and Emily’s favorite – ocean worlds. Guests include oceanographer and microbiologist Dr. Julie Huber of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik.
Did you know that the first flag on the Moon was Swiss? Well, *kind of. *But, the international community has contributed more to the exploration of space and our understanding of the universe than you might think. From India to Israel, lots of countries are sending missions to Mars, landing on comets, and observing Earth from orbit. Emily, Matt, and Nick explore space agencies from around the world, including a mission from Japan’s JAXA that just arrived at an asteroid after a 3-year, 2 billion-mile journey…and that’s not the half of it.
It took a certain amount of pure grit to be a pilot in the early days of aviation – and even more for the women who had to defy convention just to get up in the air. And that’s why early aviatrixes are at the top of our badass list. And if you’re thinking the only aviatrix was Amelia Earhart – think again. She was just one of a daring group of women aviators who were walking on wings, flying under bridges, breaking altitude records, and racing across the country – in the 1920s!
Join Emily, Matt, and Nick as they explore the history of the Ninety-Nines, the organization of women pilots originally led by Earhart and still active today. Documentary-maker Heather Taylor sets the scene of the thrilling and dangerous first Women’s National Air Derby in 1929. And Emily discovers an amazing view in her first non-commercial flight (in a tiny four-seater!) with modern-day Ninety-Nine Judy Shaw.
NASA launched TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, on April 18, 2018, continuing our search for planets outside of our solar system (aka exoplanets). Over a two-year period, TESS will survey the entire sky looking for drops in the brightness of stars that indicate the presence of a passing, or transiting, planet. On this episode Emily, Matt, and Nick unpack TESS, discussing space telescopes, exoplanets, and the search for life in our universe (also: Goldilocks, crud-eating enzymes, and Dan Brown books).
People have been spying on each other for forever. This episode is about what changed when spies upped their game (literally), rising into the sky. We’ll hear from Museum curator and aviation historian Tom Crouch on how the military application of balloons was first demonstrated to Abraham Lincoln right outside our front door in DC. And, we’ll talk to former SR-71 Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter on what it was like flying a spy plane 80,000 feet up while going three times the speed of sound. Emily, Matt, and Nick provide the intel on our eyes in the sky and the high-flying hi-tech that makes it possible.
Did we just find life on Mars? No. But NASA did announce two exciting new discoveries on the Red Planet—just before a Martian dust storm engulfed the planet. In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick will break down the meaning of the recently discovered organic molecules and mysterious methane, discuss the emotional attachment we invest in our roving robot friends, and explore the daunting challenges and enduring allure of exploring the fourth rock from the Sun.
Space is a mess. At this moment, there are literally thousands of human-made objects cluttering up Earth orbit. There's the big stuff you would expect, like satellites. But, when two of these large objects collide, they can create millions of tiny orbiting pieces. And all of these little particles can cause big problems.
This episode is all about orbital debris, a.k.a. space junk – where it comes from, how we’re trying to solve the debris problem, and what happens when it comes back to Earth. We’ll talk with Donald Kessler, the former NASA scientist who first modeled the dangers of space junk, and historian Lisa Rand, who shares the creative ideas on how to clean it up (think – lasers… and gecko feet).
You’ve heard about a gastropub, but what about an astropub? Nobody becomes an astronaut for the food, but space cuisine has come a long way since the 1960s. You can now find espresso and tortillas aboard the International Space Station, but there is sadly no astronaut ice cream. In this episode, we’ll explore the Museum’s space food collection with curator Valerie Neal. And we’ll hear from Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt on what it was like to eat on the Moon.
It’s the 50th anniversary of one of the slowest, strangest, and yet, most referenced science fiction films of all time – 2001: A Space Odyssey. It may be your FAVORITE movie, or, quite possibly, you’ve never actually seen it in its 142-minute entirety. Emily, Matt, and Nick break it down for you – Cliff’s Notes on the plot, the collaborations that made the film so realistic, and the first peeks at technologies that really exist today. Become cocktail party conversant about why a 50 year old science fiction movie remains so relevant and what current sci-fi says about our world today and the years ahead.
Professor Stephen Hawking died on March 14 at the age of 76. Hawking's contributions to science centered on his search for a unified theory of the universe, but his impact spanned far beyond the scientific community. To the many around the world, he was an expert science communicator and even a pop-culture icon. In this special episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick reflect on Hawking's enduring impact on science and culture.
“Eject, eject, eject!” Most of us are experienced at bailing out of social situations, but what about airplanes? Fewer than 1% of military pilots ever pull the eject handle, but they all know what comes next.The canopy blows, and the pilot is (literally!) rocketed up and out. Now what? In this episode, we’ll learn how pilots train to get out and back down to Earth safely, and we’ll hear from someone who did it (upside down, at 23,000 feet!). Join Emily, Matt, and Nick as they discuss the ins and outs of bailing out.
Update: We heard from a squadron mate of Chris’, who reminisced about the first time he heard the story (over the radio before Chris and Snake bailed out, and after they were safely recovered). He enjoyed the retelling, but corrected us about one thing: the canopy of an F-14 can actually hover momentarily above the cockpit in the event of an ejection, specifically when the aircraft is in a flat spin, as seen in Top Gun. The procedure for F-14 crews in the event of a confirmed flat spin was to release the canopy manually a few seconds before pulling the eject handle. Many thanks to this listener for correcting the record. We welcome listener feedback anytime via email@example.com.
The criteria to become an
astronaut has evolved over the years, but it’s still one of the toughest jobs
to land. 18,000 people applied to be a part of NASA’s most recent astronaut
class and only 12 were selected. In this episode, we’ll explore how the right
stuff has changed with the times and get a taste of what hopefuls go through to
make the cut.
No human has ever set foot on Mars, but scientists have been working there for years. A day on the red planet is about 40 minutes longer than here on Earth, which wreaks havoc on your workweek. Hosts Emily, Matt, and Nick will explore how scientists have adapted to the challenge of working on “Mars Time.” In this episode find out what it takes to be a professional Martian without ever leaving your home planet.
The National Air and Space Museum is launching a podcast! You can subscribe to the feed now. Our first episode is coming January 11.
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. Each episode, 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.