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What's Really Changed—and What Hasn’t—About Getting Humans to the Moon

Smithsonian Magazine

Earlier this month, NASA quietly announced that it would "assess the feasibility of adding a crew to Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft." In other words, NASA could be putting humans into orbit around the Moon next year. According to the agency, the push to add astronauts to the equation came at the prompting of the White House. 

NASA officials stress that the agency is merely undergoing feasibility studies, not committing to sending humans back to the Moon. “Our priority is to ensure the safe and effective execution of all our planned exploration missions with the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket,” NASA associate administrator William Gerstenmaier said in a statement last week. “This is an assessment and not a decision as the primary mission for EM-1 remains an uncrewed flight test.”

But the possibility of manned moonflight appears to be very real. Today, a senior administration official told PBS News Hour that President Donald Trump "will call for return of manned space exploration." Meanwhile, the private company SpaceX announced yesterday that it’s planning to send two space tourists around the Moon next year. If we do make a lunar return, how will a modern moon mission look compared to the Apollo missions of the 1970s?

The last time we traveled to the Moon, the world was very different. Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent three days on our trusty satellite, collecting moon rocks, taking pictures with a then high-tech grainy color camera, and repairing their lunar rover with old-fashioned duct tape. On December 14, they blasted off the surface of the Moon in their disposable command module and returned to become the last humans to ever leave low-Earth orbit.

As the U.S. economy began to contract from an oil crisis and recession, the spending on the Apollo program became unpalatable to politicians, and future moon landings were abandoned.

Today, we carry cameras and computers more powerful than the Apollo astronauts had in our pockets. High-tech fibers would likely allow spacesuits that are much more flexible and comfortable than the Apollo astronauts had to stumble around in. It would be easy, in other words, to imagine how different a Moonwalk would be today. 

First of all, NASA’s new generation of missions will use the Orion spacecraft, first announced in 2011, which are planned to permanently replace the retired Space Shuttles. Rising from the ashes of the cancelled Constellation space program that aimed to put humans back on the Moon by 2020, Orion was designed to ultimately carry humans into deep space—but not this soon. The Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), which is scheduled to launch in September 2018, was originally meant to be an unmanned launch to test Orion and the new Space Launch.

Orion will leverage the massive advances in computing power and electronics since 1972, says space history curator Michael Neufeld of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The Apollo command module had "millions" of gauges and dials scattered throughout its interior, Neufeld says, and required miles of wires behind every instrument panel to connect each one. Now, Orion will be able to use just a few flatscreens and computers to instantly bring up nearly every necessary measurement.

More powerful technology will allow more space for crew on a craft that is smaller and lighter than the original Apollo spacecraft. That will mean more space to carry supplies and more advanced sensing and photographic equipment, says Neufeld, who previously chaired the museum’s Space History Division and is the author of The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era and Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War. 

“Orion is significantly more capable than the capsule which carried the Apollo astronauts,” says NASA spokeswoman Kathryn Hambleton. One of the biggest improvements, she says, will be Orion’s ability to carry astronauts on longer missions—a necessity for potential future missions to Mars. With improved radiation shielding, solar panels and planned life support systems that will reclaim used water, Orion will soon be able to support four astronauts for up to three weeks.

“Orion is a highly advanced spacecraft which builds on the cumulative knowledge from all of our human spaceflight endeavors from short-term Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s to the present,” Hambleton says. It “combines and advances these technologies to enable human spaceflight missions of far greater scope, duration and complexity than previous missions, and represents the advent of a new era of space exploration.”

Image by NASA / Project Apollo Archive. Apollo 17 orbits the Moon before astronauts rendezvous with it to return to Earth (original image)

Image by NASA. Apollo 9 moments before it lands in the ocean after its 1969 mission. (original image)

Image by U.S. Navy. The crew module of the Orion spacecraft descends on parachutes into the Pacific Ocean after Orion's first test flight into space. (original image)

Image by NASA / Project Apollo Archive. Scientific equipment used in the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. (original image)

Image by NASA / Project Apollo Archive. Astronaut David Scott exits the Apollo module as it orbits Earth for a spacewalk during the 1969 mission. (original image)

Image by NASA / Project Apollo Archive. Astronauts in the 1969 Apollo 9 mission tested the lunar module that would be used to land on the Moon later that year. (original image)

Image by NASA. Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan stands by the lunar rover used to explore the Moon. Cernan was the last human to set foot on the moon 45 years ago. (original image)

Image by NASA. Engineers prepare to install the heat shield on the Orion crew module for its first test spaceflight. Orion uses an advanced version of the ablative heat shield used in the Apollo missions. (original image)

Yet while Orion takes advantage of cutting-edge innovations in space tech, its teardrop shape and basic design harken back to the Apollo command module that carried dozens of astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s.

The Apollo module was designed to look like a warhead, a shape that would maximize the amount of drag for slowing down the system in the atmosphere and preventing shockwaves from harming the astronauts. The design worked so well that NASA is returning to it, Neufeld says, referring to Orion as "a four-man Apollo."

The crew-carrying command modules will also use the same style of heat shield used by the Apollo missions to get crews safely back to Earth. These ablative heat shields will slowly burn up as the modules fall through the atmosphere, in effect making them single use, in contrast to the reusable system of resistant tiles developed for the space shuttles. (Damage to this system of tiles led to the 2003 Columbia disaster.)

Unlike the space shuttle, which astronauts flew like a plane to land back on the Earth, the Orion spacecraft will use parachutes to slow its fall and will land in the ocean. This is same basic system used in the Apollo program, though Hambleton notes that the parachute system is designed to be safer and deploy at higher altitudes to keep the craft more stable.

The other part of the equation for future missions—the Space Launch System that will carry the Orion modules out of Earth's grasp—will also feature a big difference from past missions. Unlike previous space shuttle launch systems, it won't be reusable, likely because the agency never achieved the planned cost savings from recovering and refurbishing the rockets.

In design, the SLS is "really derived from space shuttle technology," Neufeld says. But while Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are developing new fully reusable rockets, the SLS' large booster rockets will be allowed to burn up in the atmosphere like the rockets used by NASA before the space shuttle. "In other words, everything we did in the shuttle—reusable tiles, reusable launch vehicle—all that gets thrown away," Neufeld says.

In the end, it isn’t our technological abilities but our divergent visions about what space travel should look like that will influence our next trajectory into space. Some say humans should establish a base on the Moon and gain experience in long-term settlement there before heading to Mars. Others say it's unnecessary to waste time and money on a Moon landing, when we've already been there. Still others argue that, with advances in robot technology, it’s unnecessary to risk lives for future explorations.

"There's a larger question," Neufeld says. "Is human spaceflight a good thing to be doing? Are we doing this out of national pride—or something else?"

It's your turn to Ask Smithsonian.

What's With the People With Easels in Art Museums?

Smithsonian Magazine

It's a sight familiar to any visitor to New York's axis of art history, the Metropolitan Museum of Art—easel-toting artists parked in front of some of the collection's greatest masterpieces, painting or drawing the images they see in front of them in a state of nearly holy mad concentration. But what are they doing there, anyway? No, they're not there to hog floor space or even to plagiarize the greats: As artist Laurie Murphy writes in the museum's blog, they're part of the museum's longest-running program.

The Copyist Program has been in place since just two years after the museum opened its doors in 1870. Designed to make the museum a sort of extended studio for artists, it opens the museum to artists on an individual and group basis. Applicants must apply to copy an individual piece of art, specify the medium they intend to use, and submit digital images of their own artwork to be accepted. Once admitted to the program, they are given up to eight weeks to spend in the galleries—subject to a series of terms and conditions that include not painting on huge canvases or selling their work. (Visitors who would rather sketch using pencil only don't need permission, but must abide by the museum's guidelines.)

Though it might seem counterintuitive for developing artists to copy the work of others, it's actually been a vital part of the visual arts for millennia. Great masters routinely engaged in the process, gaining their painters' chops from those who came before them. Paul Cézanne, for example, was obsessed with the work of Eugène Delacroix, copying his work over and over again in an attempt to make a tribute worthy of his muse. Vincent van Gogh copied art, too, and as Murphy points out, copyists of Caravaggio's work helped preserve paintings that were otherwise lost to time.

Today, the Met's copyist program and similar programs at the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art and other institutions are coveted, competitive and beloved by the public who watch artists on display. But copyists weren't always revered. As Paul Duro writes, many 19th-century museum visitors assumed that women copyists were rich girls with government patronage or large checks from their fathers, not serious artists. And in 1887, The New York Times published an article that mocked the copyists at the Louvre as "these personifications of irony who have been cast at the feet of masterpieces…poor ridiculous folk picking up the crumbs and alms of art at the feet of the gods."

Luckily, that view of copyists has faded—after all, imitation is a form of both flattery and learning, and everyone from art critics to museum heads warmly welcome the practice. It turns out that despite their inability to speak, inanimate paintings and other pieces of art can communicate important lessons to artists honing their craft. So next time you see a copyist, don't blame them for taking up precious gallery real estate. Rather, take a look at their work and relish the chance to see an artistic education in real time. And if you fancy yourself a copyist, the Met is currently accepting applications for its 2016 fall season.

What's in a Name? Designing Personal Identity

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher-created lesson in which teens research the etymologies of their names and then make those names "look more like them" by designing personal logos.

What's the Best Design to Float Your Boat?

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher-created lesson in which students design a cargo vessel and then construct a model of it. They consider matters of mass, displacement, and buoyancy.

What's the Difference Between Moths and Butterflies and More Questions From Our Readers

Smithsonian Magazine

What’s the difference between moths and butterflies, in evolutionary terms?

David Hayes | Baltimore, Maryland

Night and day—literally. Most moths are nocturnal; butterflies are essentially moths that have evolved to be diurnal, or active during the day, says Robert Robbins, a curator of lepidoptera at the National Museum of Natural History. Both moths and butterflies have patterned wings, but the latter also developed brightly colored wings. These colors are codes—to other butterflies, they might signal sex and mating status; to predators, they might imitate a toxic or foul-tasting species. Many moths communicate differently. For example, they may supplement their wing patterns with fragrances to attract mates or repel predators.

Did Thomas Edison really try to develop large-scale affordable housing? What made his design special?

Paul Lalonde | Guelph, Ontario

He did, with a house of concrete. In the 1890s, Edison developed rock-crushing machinery for retrieving iron ore. That business failed, but the machinery proved well suited to producing cement, a key ingredient of concrete. In 1907, a time when New York City was rife with overcrowded tenements, Edison announced plans for low-cost, healthful concrete houses, and he later patented a method for building them. In a single pour into an iron mold, explains Joyce Bedi, senior historian at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, concrete would form the walls and roof—and the stairs, floors, even bathtubs. Edison offered the use of that patent free, and an investor built prototypes in New Jersey, some of which still stand. But this business also failed: The molds were costly, the houses weren’t very attractive, and potential buyers were put off by the stigma of a home labeled “the salvation of the unwashed masses.”

Why are the planets and moons in our solar system spherical?

Stephen Cohen | Bethesda, Maryland

Objects the size of planets, and some moons, have enough gravitational potential energy to draw whatever they’re made of—solids, liquids or gases and vapors—toward their centers, resulting in a sphere, says David DeVorkin, senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum’s division of space history. That gravitational pull is one of the traits of a planet, per the International Astronomical Union. Some planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, are less than perfectly spherical because the force of their rotation distorts their shape. Most large moons are also spherical, but they don’t need to be by definition; Mars’ Deimos and Phobos are two slightly misshapen examples.

Why were Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington and Theodore Roosevelt chosen for Mount Rushmore?

Jacob Guiton | Overlook, Pennsylvania

That was the doing of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor recruited in 1924 to create “a heroic sculpture” to spur South Dakota tourism. He wanted the Rushmore commission “to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation and unification of the United States.” So: Washington (founding), Jefferson (expansion) and Lincoln (preservation and unification). Roosevelt, says James Barber, historian and curator at the National Portrait Gallery, was chosen to represent the nation’s development and to carry the monument’s narrative into the 20th century.

What’s in an Art Lesson?

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
This Object of the Day  celebrates one of many treasured objects given by Clare and Eugene V. Thaw to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.  It is republished here in memory of Eugene V. Thaw. Click on this link to read more about the Thaws and their gifts to Cooper Hewitt.    Heads down with pencils and brushes...

What’s Inside Jackson Pollock’s Address Book?

Smithsonian Magazine

The "little black book" is where the most intimate, mysterious details were once kept—a femme fatale’s list of lovers, a business magnate’s key clients, a detective’s codenamed informants. These unadorned volumes, where a person would jot down contacts and other personal details, is less coherent than a diary, but its scattering of names, numbers and appointments is in some ways more intriguing.

While these ledgers held an imaginative power (thanks to romances and noir films) often out of proportion to their actual daily use, an artist’s address book does provide a fascinating peek into their daily lives and the company they kept. That is the idea behind the new exhibition “Little Black Books,” currently on view at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art’s Fleischman Gallery.

“The title is really provocative to certain generations, because the idea of a ‘little black book’ in pop culture often refers to a book of love affairs,” says Mary Savig, the Archives’ curator of manuscripts, though she acknowledges that for the show she aimed to give the term broader connotations than only romantic ones. “But when we asked [people]—who are all born in the 90s—about what they thought a ‘little black book’ is, they had never heard of it before.”

The show dives into the personal address books—complete with enigmatic notes, strikethroughs, and ink stains—of artists like Jackson Pollock and Joseph Cornell. The books offer a glimpse into the personal lives of these luminaries, and a portal into a time when important private information was scribbled into a modest volume, and carried around, unsecured and dog-eared.

A quirk of the books is how close friends and family are on equal footing with casual acquaintances. In her address book, art critic Lucy Lippard allots as much space to the entry for her husband as she does for one-time only acquaintances. A stranger flipping through the pages would have no idea who holds more significance in her life—which presented a challenge to the show’s curator.

Bernarda Bryson Shahn's address book, 1972-2002 (Archives of American Art)

“It really requires more research to figure out what those connections are and the depth of the relationships,” says Savig.

With this in mind, the exhibition explores the techniques historians might use to tease out the relationships contained in the books, digging into further archives, delving into the owner’s personal papers and notes.

Jackson Pollock’s book, which he shared with partner and fellow painter Lee Krasner, includes an impressive, if predictable, cast of characters, including abstract expressionists Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler, and art critic Clement Greenberg. But it also included names of several doctors, among them Dr. Elizabeth Hubbard a psychotherapist; and Dr. Ruth Fox, a homeopathic practitioner who tried to cure Pollock of his alcoholism in the 1950s (and who wrote a condolence letter to Lee Krasner upon Pollock’s death).

Also, among the painter’s contacts were Vashi and Veena, a pair of Hindu dancers who met Pollock while on break from studying at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. Savig and her team were able to figure out who the doctors were by doing additional research in the Archives and through historical newspaper clippings and learned about the dancers through an oral history interview with Pollock’s friend, the painter Emerson Woelffer, who introduced them.

“These are certainly not household names and the only reason we could figure out who they are is because we have letters and other documents about them in the papers,” says Savig, adding that the research process was far more complicated than a simple Google search.

Dorothy Liebes' address book, ca. 1950-1972 (Archives of American Art)

This blend of contacts famous and obscure, intimate and inconsequential, Savig says, provides an unusual way for historians to understand the book’s owner. Textile designer and weaver Dorothy Liebes' book eschews traditional alphabetical order. She instead breaks it up into particular categories: “Philadelphia,” “restaurants,” “boys” and an enigmatic category that she labels “extra girls.”

“Maybe when she went to Philadelphia, those were the only names she needed—hotels and airlines—but it’s her own order,” says Savig. “Sometimes we can figure out [the owner’s intention], but sometimes we never know. There are ‘extra girls,’ but no original ‘girls.’”

It was actually the story of a lost address book that gave Savig the idea for the show—as she attended a lecture discussing French conceptual artist Sophie Calle’s 1983 work The Address Book.

Calle had found a little black book on a Paris street and began contacting the names it contained to create a series of articles and photographs following the web of the owner’s family, friends and acquaintances. The show raised “an interesting question of what the connections are between all the people in an address book,” as Savig puts it.

Following the paper trail of connections and interactions, Savig and her team pieced together the web of relationships in the lives of these individuals. The show is composed of a series of glass cases, most of which contain a particular address book, accompanied by archival material that explores the broader context of its owner, the names included and the social circles they represent.

But the first case in the show serves a more straightforward purpose: explaining what defines a “little black book,” a concept has slipped from pop culture in this era of smartphones and social media.

“People growing up, getting new things in their life—going to college and moving, or getting a new job and moving—we don’t really track that physically now,” she says.

Walt Kuhn’s address book, discarded after Oct. 1, 1930 (Archives of American Art)

The books in the show reveal the constant shifts of these artists’ social networks. Walt Kuhn, painter and organizer of the 1913 Armory Show, had six or seven small books (though only one is on view in the exhibit). When he got a new book, he would transfer the important information from the original book, effectively leaving behind contacts that no longer held as much importance in his life (the pre-Facebook version of “unfriending”).

“Maybe they didn’t need to stay in touch anymore, but you can see how contacts are prioritized in that way,” says Savig. On the book in the show, he writes, “discarded October 1, 1930, do not destroy.”

Kathleen Blackshear's address book, 1947-1957 (Archives of American Art)

Printmaker Kathleen Blackshear had an address book for her holiday card mailing list. She made a beautiful silkscreen print holiday card each year, and crossed off names from one year to the next. She would add a symbol next to some names to indicate if they got a card that year, and received many cards in return. “Maybe she took people’s names off the list if they didn’t send her a card in return,” considers Savig.

Just as an address book provides a vehicle through which to understand a person, it also served in one case as a pathway to a much larger world for its owner. Assemblage artist Joseph Cornell was a known recluse, who rarely left his home in Flushing, New York. But his address book is packed with names of avant-garde artists with whom he frequently exchanged letters and gifts, many of which he used in his collages.

Joseph Cornell's address book, 1950-1970 (Archives of American Art)

“Even though Cornell never really left New York, he did accumulate through all his friends and people listed in his address book, all these experiences from around the world,” says Savig. “People really enjoyed corresponding with him. They brought the world to him. He didn’t leave much but still had a really interesting life through those relationships.”

Little Black Books: Address Books From the Archives of American Art is on view through November 1, 2015 at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery located at 8th and F Streets NW, home also to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

What’s Your Sign?

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
OTD_CrabethWhat do balls, goats, and turtles have in common? …They’re all symbols of a powerful man. In 1570, Cosimo I de’ Medici opened the Laurentian Library in Florence, realizing a decades-long project to house and promote his family’s vast collection of scholarly manuscripts.[1] This drawing shows a design for one of the library’s stained glass...

What’s in a Name? The Related Talents of Mark Catesby and Gertrude Jekyll

Smithsonian Libraries
The Catesby Commemorative Trust launched the publication of The Curious Mister Catesby with a program at the National Museum of Natural History this past April. Smithsonian Libraries’ own Leslie Overstreet, a contributor to these various perspectives on Mark Catesby’s The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama islands (London, 1729-1747), spoke on that work’s more »

What’s on Your Botanical Bucket List?

Smithsonian Magazine

Before I die, I’m going to see a corpse flower in bloom.

The enormous, foul-smelling blooms of the Amorphophallus titanum belong to a rare plant native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The flowers appear approximately once or twice a decade and last only about two days, making an in-person visit a challenge. Only about 100 A. titanium plants grow in cultivation around the world, and a blooming corpse flower at a museum or garden makes headlines and draws long lines of visitors.

Along with the giant redwoods and sequoias of California, the corpse flower is high on my botanical bucket list—a plant I want to see with my own eyes in my lifetime. That made me wonder, which species do other botany fans want to stalk like celebrities or witness like world landmarks?

Nick Snakenberg, the curator of tropical plants for the Denver Botanical Garden, had a front-row seat for a corpse flower bloom in 2015. Now a fully blooming Rafflesia arnoldii, also known as the corpse lily, sits at the top of Snakenberg’s list.

Like the A. titanum, this plant grows naturally in Indonesia, flowers infrequently and briefly and gives off a distinctive stench of rotting meat. R. arnoldii is considered the largest individual flower in the world, with reddish-brown blooms measuring up to three feet across. The parasitic plant lives inside a host plant and has no roots or leaves, so it can’t be seen easily until it blooms.

“You just have to happen across it,” explains Snakenberg. He considers himself very fortunate to have seen the bud of a corpse lily in 2002, when he traveled to Malaysia for an orchid conference. But he's still waiting to see a mature flower, and he doesn’t believe any garden has grown the corpse lily, making it one of the toughest bucket list goals.

This corpse lily, Rafflesia arnoldii, was spotted blooming in the tropical rainforest of Sumatra in 2014. (Alcibbum Photography/Corbis)

For Lou Jost, a botanist and orchid hunter who’s spent the last 20 years in Ecuador, making his own bucket list initially seemed impossible. “This is such a hard question for me! How can anyone choose!” he said in an email.

Jost is the founder of Fundación EcoMinga, one of the World Land Trust’s four conservation partners in Ecuador. He’s credited with discovering one of the world’s smallest orchids in 2009—so perhaps it's no surprise he has an orchid on his bucket list.

The Phragmipedium kovachii, a neotropical ladyslipper orchid, was discovered in Peru in 2001 and has been called the orchid discovery of the century, explains Jost. The flower is at least twice as large as any other bloom in its genus. The orchid’s surprise discovery, along with its beauty and size, are why Jost wants to see it for himself.

“It’s amazing that something that big and spectacular could be overlooked,” he says. “How could this have remained hidden and undiscovered for so long in the Peruvian cloud forest? I’d love to see this.”

The Phragmipedium kovachii orchid. (courtesy Flickr user Jean-Francois Brousseau, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Jost would also like to see the Nepenthes edwardsiana in the wild, which he calls “the most spectacular of the carnivorous pitcher plants.” This plant is a vine bearing pitcher-shaped leaves designed to lure and trap insects. The pitchers contain acidic fluid to digest the insects, with a row of downward-pointing ridges around the mouth and smooth, waxy inner surfaces so prey can’t escape.

The species is native to the mountains of Borneo, which is considered one of the most biologically interesting places on Earth, Jost says. “Both the plant and the place should be on any botanist’s bucket list.”

The Welwitschia mirabilis, a bedraggled-looking desert plant, seems an odd choice for Jost’s bucket list. “It’s the opposite of an orchid, so maybe that’s why I’m attracted to it,” he admits. Native to the Namib desert within Namibia and to Angola in Africa, the W. mirabilis is not closely related to any other plant in the world. “It’s like something that dropped from outer space,” says Jost.

An individual plant can endure for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years, which may explain why the species appears on the bottom of Namibia’s official coat of arms as a symbol of the country’s tenacity and fortitude. The hardy plant is difficult to cultivate, though, so seeing it in its own environment is part of the appeal. 

A Welwitschia mirabilis plant in the Namib desert. (courtesy Flickr user Joachim Huber, CC BY-SA 2.0)

W. mirabilis also made the list for Sylvia Schmeichel, a horticulturalist for the American Horticultural Society and the manager of its River Farm headquarters in Virginia. “It’s super ugly, but it’s really rare and unusual,” says Schmeichel, who adds that she’s drawn to plants that have adapted to a harsh environment.

Schmeichel says she’d also love to see the Araucaria araucana, commonly known as the monkey puzzle tree. This tree is an evergreen native to Chile and Argentina that can grow more than 160 feet tall. Its branches are sheathed in spiny overlapping leaves, giving it a unique, scaly appearance. The species' common name comes from the notion that climbing the spikey tree safely would puzzle even a monkey.

Schmeichel notes that while she’s seen monkey puzzle trees in cultivation, seeing them in their natural environment and surrounding ecosystem would be something special. 

The spiky branches of a monkey puzzle tree growing in Punta Arenas, Chile. (courtesy Flickr user denisbin, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Tony Kirkham, the head of the arboretum at the U.K.'s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, gravitates to trees “that are full of character.” In particular, he favors the oldest of the old, the unique tree specimens that have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of years.

Kirkham, who’s traveled all over the world to view trees, hopes to see the General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park near Visalia, California. The General Sherman is not the tallest tree in the park, but it is the largest tree in the world in terms of trunk volume, at 52,508 cubic feet. The tree is estimated to be at least 2,000 years old.

Kirkham also wants to see the Montezuma cypress known as El Tule, which grows in a churchyard in Santa María del Tule, Mexico. El Tule is believed to be more than 2,000 years old and is considered the oldest living tree in Mexico. The tree’s statistics are impressive: 139 feet tall, and 46 feet wide. “It’s a monster,” says Kirkham. 

The massive trunk of the Montezuma cypress El Tule in Santa María del Tule, Mexico. (courtesy Flickr user Holger Baschleben, CC BY-NC 2.0)

What’s the Deal about New Deal Art?

Smithsonian Magazine

Sweeping a long arm in an arc around the walls of a new exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, deputy chief curator George Gurney fires off a string of locales. “This is Seattle, Washington,” he says. “This is St. Paul, Minnesota. That’s Peterborough, New Hampshire.” He continues through New England to Pennsylvania, California and New Mexico.

The show, “1934: A New Deal for Artists,” offers a panorama of the United States through the vision of artists in the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the first nationwide foray into public art.

“This gave people something to be proud about, for their locale,” adds curatorial associate Ann Prentice Wagner. Programs such as PWAP, which began the series of programs that culminated most prominently with the Federal Art Project (1935-43) commissioned murals for schools, post offices, libraries and community centers, and put sculpture in national parks.

Begun in December 1933 by an attorney-turned-artist named Edward “Ned” Bruce in the Treasury Department, the PWAP cranked out more than 15,000 works of art in just six months. It did this amid one of the bleakest seasons of the Great Depression.

When curators planned the exhibition last year to mark the 75th anniversary of the New Deal, they had no idea that headlines would overtake them. “Suddenly one day we pick up the newspaper and the whole world is upside down,” says the museum’s director, Betsy Broun. “Suddenly we’re current.”

Gurney thought of drawing from American Art’s own collection after strolling through the museum’s storage area and being amazed by the number of 1934 easel paintings—nearly 200. Indeed American Art has the largest collection of New Deal paintings in the country. Broun explains that’s because in 1934, what later became the Smithsonian American Art Museum was the only art museum with federal funding; works commissioned by the PWAP would end up there unless they found another home. “We’re really proud of our heritage as the first federally supported art museum in America,” says Broun. Gurney chose 55 pieces for the show. Opening now, as the Obama administration considers emergency relief on a scale not seen since FDR’s New Deal, “transforms the exhibition,” notes Broun.

Many New Deal programs represented a radical departure from government policy by treating artists, writers and musicians as professionals who provided services worthy of support. The PWAP scrambled to life in December 1933 with a one-month expiration date and pressure for results. Its director, Ned Bruce, wielded a fast brush and had a wide canvas. Gurney puts it simply: “Bruce encouraged people to paint the American scene.”

Bruce was tapped by Roosevelt to lead the PWAP at age 54, after a career as a railroad attorney, businessman, expatriate artist and lobbyist. He set the PWAP in motion quickly to pre-empt political blowback, a strategy that has a certain timeliness now. On December 8, 1933, Bruce invited more than a dozen people to lunch, extending a special invitation to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he would later call “the fairy godmother” of the public art program. Within days, all 16 regional directors, selected by Bruce, had accepted their jobs and were forming volunteer committees to identify artists across the nation. “Within eight days, the first artists had their checks,” Wagner says. “Within three weeks, they all did. It was amazingly fast. People were so excited.” Bruce capped it with a publicity blitz, appearing on a New York City radio station before the month was out.

Taking a phrase from a speech given by Franklin Roosevelt on December 6, 1933, Bruce called the PWAP an example of the President’s desire to give Americans “a more abundant life” with “the first completely democratic art movement in history.” Some were less sanguine. The project’s critics complained that taxpayer money was being wasted on decoration. A December 1933 report in the New York Times sounded querulous in announcing “that the administration has determined that work must be found for artists as well as for longshoremen.” To such complaints FDR replied, “Why not?” he said, “They have to live.”

The initial January 15 deadline was extended to June. PWAP commissioned roughly a third of the estimated 10,000 unemployed artists nationwide. The effect was electric. It jump-started people beginning careers in art amid the devastation. One-third of the artists featured in the current exhibition were in their 20s; more than half were in their 30s.

“Every artist I have spoken to,” Harry Gottlieb, an artist from Woodstock, New York, wrote in a letter to Bruce in January 1934, “is so keyed up…putting every ounce of his energy and creative ability into his work as never before.”

“You’re telling the artists: you matter,” says Wagner. “You’re American workers too.”

Although mainly intended for economic impact, the program was also an investment in public morale, says Gurney. The works would hang in schools and libraries, federal buildings and parks—places where people could see them. Bruce made this point repeatedly in talking to the press, saying this was the most democratic art movement in history. By the time it ended, the PWAP’s price tag for 15,663 pieces of art was $1.312 million. Roughly $84 per work.

In April 1934, when most of the paintings were done, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. held a PWAP exhibit. The organizers held their breath, fearing a backlash from critics. This was make-work, after all, not the slow process of creative art.

The exhibit showed an eclectic range of styles, from William Arthur Cooper’s folk- art view of a Tennessee lumberyard to the modernist geometry of Paul Kelpe’s view of an American factory. Louis Guglielme, in New Hampshire, practiced what he called “social surrealism,” using a floating perspective to give the scene of a town green an uneasy sense of malaise. Arthur Cederquist’s Old Pennsylvania Farm in Winter is both a realistic vision of rural life and a glimpse of technology’s arrival: railroad tracks, overhead electric and telephone lines. Its colors tend to bleached, wintry grays and browns—a proto-Andrew Wyeth atmosphere. Ilya Bolotowsky, an abstract painter, adapted his modernist perspectives to an otherwise traditional barbershop scene. “This is not just pure realism,” Gurney points out; using the barber’s mirrors, Bolotowsky “tipped things up and forced them out at you.”

The response to the Corcoran show was overwhelming. The New York Times gave a glowing review, and congressmen and cabinet secretaries lined up to request paintings for their offices. At the front of the line was the White House, which displayed a selection of them. A year later, more public art projects followed, including the Federal Art Project and another Treasury program that Bruce headed up.

Many more New Deal works remain in collections around the country, often where they were painted. (The PWAP also commissioned murals, including scenes in San Francisco’s Coit Tower, which were not fully appreciated until much later: Kenneth Rexroth, the poet who later announced the Beats, is immortalized in one of the Coit Tower murals climbing a ladder to a high library shelf.)

Does the exhibition take a stand on whether the government should invest in art for emergency relief? Broun demurs. “My argument,” she says, “is: Wow, when the government really does invest in documenting and understanding and inspiring its people, the legacy is really fabulous. That’s how we know ourselves.” She quotes Roosevelt, who said, “One hundred years from now, my administration will be known for its art, not its relief.” American Art has launched a website, “Picturing the 1930s,” which provides a view of popular culture at the time through articles, images and film: http://www.americanart.si.edu/picturing1930/.

David A. Taylor is the author of Soul of a People: The WPA Writers’ Project Uncovers Depression America (Wiley), published in February.

Wheat (cartoon for ceramic mosaic for Nebraska State Capitol, Vestibule ceiling) [painting] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Design executed by R. Gustavino Company.

Dunn, Louise Meiere (daughter of artist), 1993.

Black-and-white study print (8x10).

Orig. negative: 8x10, Nitrate, BW.

copy 1 negative: 8x10, Safety, BW.

Wheat Bottle

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Wheel

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Circular form with ten evenly spaced projections around outer perimeter, each of a different shape, with varying terminals. Main body is smooth surfaced, color of greenish-yellow with blue dots and a red wavy line; various colors on projection terminals.

Wheel Green

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Developed from "The Mathematical Basis of the Arts."

Wheel Oar and Rocket

National Air and Space Museum
Wheel oar and rocket.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Wheel Pant, Lockheed Sirius "Tingmissartoq", C.A. Lindbergh

National Air and Space Museum
Painted metal wheel pant for Lockheed Sirius while in use as land based take-off and landing aircraft. Previously part of A19600014010, removed for display in Pioneers of Flight, Gallery 208.

A vacation flight with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." So Charles A. Lindbergh described the flight that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were planning to make to the Orient in 1931. Their choice of route, however, showed the feasibility of using the great circle to reach the Far East.

The Lindberghs flew in a Lockheed Sirius low-wing monoplane, powered by a 680-hp Wright Cyclone. The Sirius had been designed in 1929 by John K. Northrop and Gerard Vultee, and this model was specially fitted with Edo floats, since most of the Lindberghs flight was to be over water.

Their route took them from North Haven, Maine, to Ottawa, Moose Factory, Churchill, Baker Lake, and Aklavik, all in Canada; Point Barrow, Shismaref, and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlosk. Siberia; and on over the Kurile Islands to Japan. After receiving an enthusiastic welcome in Tokyo, they flew to China. They landed on Lotus Lake near Nanking on September 19, thus completing the first flight from the West to the East by way of the North.

At Hankow, the Sirius, with the Lindberghs aboard, was being lowered into the Yangtze River from the British aircraft carrier Hermes, when the aircraft accidentally capsized. One of the wings was damaged when it hit a ship’s cable, and the aircraft had to be returned to the United States for repairs.

Their next venture in the Sirius came as a result of the five countries’ interest in the development of commercial air transport. In 1933 Pan American Airways, Imperial Airways of Great Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, KLM of Holland, and Air France undertook a cooperative study of possible Atlantic routes. Each was assigned the responsibility for one of the following areas: New Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland; Newfoundland via the great circle route to Ireland; Newfoundland southeast to the Azores and Lisbon; Miami, Bermuda, the Azores, and Lisbon; and across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to Cape Verde, Africa.

Pan American was to survey the Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland route. Ground survey and weather crews in Greenland were already hard at work when Lindbergh, Pan Am’s technical advisor, took off from New York on July 9 in the rebuilt Lockheed Sirius, again accompanied by his wife, who would serve as copilot and radio operator. A Sperry artificial horizon and a directional gyro had been added to the instrument panel since the previous flight, and a new Wright Cyclone SR1820-F2 engine of 710 horsepower was installed. Lindbergh’s plan was not to set up a particular route but to gather as much information as possible on the area to be covered.

The Jellinge, a Danish ship, was chartered by Pan Am to maintain radio contact with the Lindberghs in the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland area. The ship also delivered advance supplies for them to Halifax, Saint John’s, Cartwright, Greenland, and Iceland.

Every possible space in the aircraft was utilized, including the wings and floats, which contained the gasoline tanks. There was plenty of emergency equipment in case the Lindberghs had to make a forced landing in the frozen wilderness.

From New York, the Lindberghs flew up the eastern border of Canada to Hopedale, Labrador. From Hopedale they made the first major overwater hop, 650 miles to Godthaab, Greenland, where the Sirius acquired its name—Tingmissartoq, which in Eskimo means "one who flies like a big bird."

After crisscrossing Greenland to Baffin Island and back, and then on to Iceland, the Lindberghs proceeded to the major cities of Europe and as far east as Moscow, down the west coast of Africa, and across the South Atlantic to South America. where they flew down the Amazon, and then north through Trinidad and Barbados and back to the United States.

They returned to New York on December 19, having traveled 30,000 miles to four continents and twenty-one countries. The information gained from the trip proved invaluable in planning commercial air transport routes for the North and South Atlantic.

The aircraft was in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until 1955. The Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, then acquired it and transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.

Wheel Pant, Wheel and Tire, Lockheed Sirius "Tingmissartoq", C.A. Lindbergh

National Air and Space Museum
Painted metal wheel pants for Lockheed Sirius while in use as land based take-off and landing aircraft. See also, in same crate: A19600014021 Black rubber tire Goodrich Silverstone with red emblem, with gray aluminum hub.

These wheel pants were part of Charles and Anne Lindbergh's Lockheed Sirius aircraft when they purchased it in 1929. The wheel pants were meant to reduce drag by providing streamlining around the wheels. They must have been effective, for the Lindberghs set a coast-to-coast speed record in the Sirius on April 20, 1930.

In 1931 the Sirius' wheels and wheel pants were removed and replaced by Edo floats in preparation for the Lindberghs' flight to the Orient. They would be following the northern Great Circle route over Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Japan, landing in lakes, rivers, and even open ocean along the way. Therefore, they needed floats, not wheels, on their airplane.

A vacation flight with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." So Charles A. Lindbergh described the flight that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were planning to make to the Orient in 1931. Their choice of route, however, showed the feasibility of using the great circle to reach the Far East.

The Lindberghs flew in a Lockheed Sirius low-wing monoplane, powered by a 680-hp Wright Cyclone. The Sirius had been designed in 1929 by John K. Northrop and Gerard Vultee, and this model was specially fitted with Edo floats, since most of the Lindberghs flight was to be over water.

Their route took them from North Haven, Maine, to Ottawa, Moose Factory, Churchill, Baker Lake, and Aklavik, all in Canada; Point Barrow, Shismaref, and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlosk. Siberia; and on over the Kurile Islands to Japan. After receiving an enthusiastic welcome in Tokyo, they flew to China. They landed on Lotus Lake near Nanking on September 19, thus completing the first flight from the West to the East by way of the North.

At Hankow, the Sirius, with the Lindberghs aboard, was being lowered into the Yangtze River from the British aircraft carrier Hermes, when the aircraft accidentally capsized. One of the wings was damaged when it hit a ship’s cable, and the aircraft had to be returned to the United States for repairs.

Their next venture in the Sirius came as a result of the five countries’ interest in the development of commercial air transport. In 1933 Pan American Airways, Imperial Airways of Great Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, KLM of Holland, and Air France undertook a cooperative study of possible Atlantic routes. Each was assigned the responsibility for one of the following areas: New Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland; Newfoundland via the great circle route to Ireland; Newfoundland southeast to the Azores and Lisbon; Miami, Bermuda, the Azores, and Lisbon; and across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to Cape Verde, Africa.

Pan American was to survey the Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland route. Ground survey and weather crews in Greenland were already hard at work when Lindbergh, Pan Am’s technical advisor, took off from New York on July 9 in the rebuilt Lockheed Sirius, again accompanied by his wife, who would serve as copilot and radio operator. A Sperry artificial horizon and a directional gyro had been added to the instrument panel since the previous flight, and a new Wright Cyclone SR1820-F2 engine of 710 horsepower was installed. Lindbergh’s plan was not to set up a particular route but to gather as much information as possible on the area to be covered.

The Jellinge, a Danish ship, was chartered by Pan Am to maintain radio contact with the Lindberghs in the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland area. The ship also delivered advance supplies for them to Halifax, Saint John’s, Cartwright, Greenland, and Iceland.

Every possible space in the aircraft was utilized, including the wings and floats, which contained the gasoline tanks. There was plenty of emergency equipment in case the Lindberghs had to make a forced landing in the frozen wilderness.

From New York, the Lindberghs flew up the eastern border of Canada to Hopedale, Labrador. From Hopedale they made the first major overwater hop, 650 miles to Godthaab, Greenland, where the Sirius acquired its name—Tingmissartoq, which in Eskimo means "one who flies like a big bird."

After crisscrossing Greenland to Baffin Island and back, and then on to Iceland, the Lindberghs proceeded to the major cities of Europe and as far east as Moscow, down the west coast of Africa, and across the South Atlantic to South America. where they flew down the Amazon, and then north through Trinidad and Barbados and back to the United States.

They returned to New York on December 19, having traveled 30,000 miles to four continents and twenty-one countries. The information gained from the trip proved invaluable in planning commercial air transport routes for the North and South Atlantic.

The aircraft was in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until 1955. The Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, then acquired it and transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.

Wheel, Lockheed Sirius "Tingmissartoq", C.A. Lindbergh

National Air and Space Museum
Black rubber tire Goodrich Silverstone with red emblem, with gray aluminum hub.

Previously part of A19600014010, removed for treatment 06/14/2010. Stored in same crate as A19600014010.

A vacation flight with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." So Charles A. Lindbergh described the flight that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were planning to make to the Orient in 1931. Their choice of route, however, showed the feasibility of using the great circle to reach the Far East.

The Lindberghs flew in a Lockheed Sirius low-wing monoplane, powered by a 680-hp Wright Cyclone. The Sirius had been designed in 1929 by John K. Northrop and Gerard Vultee, and this model was specially fitted with Edo floats, since most of the Lindberghs flight was to be over water.

Their route took them from North Haven, Maine, to Ottawa, Moose Factory, Churchill, Baker Lake, and Aklavik, all in Canada; Point Barrow, Shismaref, and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlosk. Siberia; and on over the Kurile Islands to Japan. After receiving an enthusiastic welcome in Tokyo, they flew to China. They landed on Lotus Lake near Nanking on September 19, thus completing the first flight from the West to the East by way of the North.

At Hankow, the Sirius, with the Lindberghs aboard, was being lowered into the Yangtze River from the British aircraft carrier Hermes, when the aircraft accidentally capsized. One of the wings was damaged when it hit a ship’s cable, and the aircraft had to be returned to the United States for repairs.

Their next venture in the Sirius came as a result of the five countries’ interest in the development of commercial air transport. In 1933 Pan American Airways, Imperial Airways of Great Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, KLM of Holland, and Air France undertook a cooperative study of possible Atlantic routes. Each was assigned the responsibility for one of the following areas: New Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland; Newfoundland via the great circle route to Ireland; Newfoundland southeast to the Azores and Lisbon; Miami, Bermuda, the Azores, and Lisbon; and across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to Cape Verde, Africa.

Pan American was to survey the Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland route. Ground survey and weather crews in Greenland were already hard at work when Lindbergh, Pan Am’s technical advisor, took off from New York on July 9 in the rebuilt Lockheed Sirius, again accompanied by his wife, who would serve as copilot and radio operator. A Sperry artificial horizon and a directional gyro had been added to the instrument panel since the previous flight, and a new Wright Cyclone SR1820-F2 engine of 710 horsepower was installed. Lindbergh’s plan was not to set up a particular route but to gather as much information as possible on the area to be covered.

The Jellinge, a Danish ship, was chartered by Pan Am to maintain radio contact with the Lindberghs in the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland area. The ship also delivered advance supplies for them to Halifax, Saint John’s, Cartwright, Greenland, and Iceland.

Every possible space in the aircraft was utilized, including the wings and floats, which contained the gasoline tanks. There was plenty of emergency equipment in case the Lindberghs had to make a forced landing in the frozen wilderness.

From New York, the Lindberghs flew up the eastern border of Canada to Hopedale, Labrador. From Hopedale they made the first major overwater hop, 650 miles to Godthaab, Greenland, where the Sirius acquired its name—Tingmissartoq, which in Eskimo means "one who flies like a big bird."

After crisscrossing Greenland to Baffin Island and back, and then on to Iceland, the Lindberghs proceeded to the major cities of Europe and as far east as Moscow, down the west coast of Africa, and across the South Atlantic to South America. where they flew down the Amazon, and then north through Trinidad and Barbados and back to the United States.

They returned to New York on December 19, having traveled 30,000 miles to four continents and twenty-one countries. The information gained from the trip proved invaluable in planning commercial air transport routes for the North and South Atlantic.

The aircraft was in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until 1955. The Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, then acquired it and transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.

Wheel, Lockheed Sirius "Tingmissartoq", C.A. Lindbergh

National Air and Space Museum
Black rubber tire Goodrich Silverstone with red emblem, with gray aluminum hub. Previously part of A19600014010, removed 06/14/2010. For installation in Pioneers of Flight, Gallery 208.

A vacation flight with "no start or finish, no diplomatic or commercial significance, and no records to be sought." So Charles A. Lindbergh described the flight that he and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were planning to make to the Orient in 1931. Their choice of route, however, showed the feasibility of using the great circle to reach the Far East.

The Lindberghs flew in a Lockheed Sirius low-wing monoplane, powered by a 680-hp Wright Cyclone. The Sirius had been designed in 1929 by John K. Northrop and Gerard Vultee, and this model was specially fitted with Edo floats, since most of the Lindberghs flight was to be over water.

Their route took them from North Haven, Maine, to Ottawa, Moose Factory, Churchill, Baker Lake, and Aklavik, all in Canada; Point Barrow, Shismaref, and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlosk. Siberia; and on over the Kurile Islands to Japan. After receiving an enthusiastic welcome in Tokyo, they flew to China. They landed on Lotus Lake near Nanking on September 19, thus completing the first flight from the West to the East by way of the North.

At Hankow, the Sirius, with the Lindberghs aboard, was being lowered into the Yangtze River from the British aircraft carrier Hermes, when the aircraft accidentally capsized. One of the wings was damaged when it hit a ship’s cable, and the aircraft had to be returned to the United States for repairs.

Their next venture in the Sirius came as a result of the five countries’ interest in the development of commercial air transport. In 1933 Pan American Airways, Imperial Airways of Great Britain, Lufthansa of Germany, KLM of Holland, and Air France undertook a cooperative study of possible Atlantic routes. Each was assigned the responsibility for one of the following areas: New Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland; Newfoundland via the great circle route to Ireland; Newfoundland southeast to the Azores and Lisbon; Miami, Bermuda, the Azores, and Lisbon; and across the South Atlantic from Natal, Brazil, to Cape Verde, Africa.

Pan American was to survey the Newfoundland to Europe via Greenland route. Ground survey and weather crews in Greenland were already hard at work when Lindbergh, Pan Am’s technical advisor, took off from New York on July 9 in the rebuilt Lockheed Sirius, again accompanied by his wife, who would serve as copilot and radio operator. A Sperry artificial horizon and a directional gyro had been added to the instrument panel since the previous flight, and a new Wright Cyclone SR1820-F2 engine of 710 horsepower was installed. Lindbergh’s plan was not to set up a particular route but to gather as much information as possible on the area to be covered.

The Jellinge, a Danish ship, was chartered by Pan Am to maintain radio contact with the Lindberghs in the Labrador-Greenland-Iceland area. The ship also delivered advance supplies for them to Halifax, Saint John’s, Cartwright, Greenland, and Iceland.

Every possible space in the aircraft was utilized, including the wings and floats, which contained the gasoline tanks. There was plenty of emergency equipment in case the Lindberghs had to make a forced landing in the frozen wilderness.

From New York, the Lindberghs flew up the eastern border of Canada to Hopedale, Labrador. From Hopedale they made the first major overwater hop, 650 miles to Godthaab, Greenland, where the Sirius acquired its name—Tingmissartoq, which in Eskimo means "one who flies like a big bird."

After crisscrossing Greenland to Baffin Island and back, and then on to Iceland, the Lindberghs proceeded to the major cities of Europe and as far east as Moscow, down the west coast of Africa, and across the South Atlantic to South America. where they flew down the Amazon, and then north through Trinidad and Barbados and back to the United States.

They returned to New York on December 19, having traveled 30,000 miles to four continents and twenty-one countries. The information gained from the trip proved invaluable in planning commercial air transport routes for the North and South Atlantic.

The aircraft was in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until 1955. The Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, then acquired it and transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.

Wheeled Chaise Lounge

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Chaise longue with horizontal cushions with rounded sled-like arms, with wheels.

Wheeler Kearns

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"Daniel H. Wheeler, AIA" rotated counterclockwise and printed in left margin. Wheeler Kearns business information printed on right side. In background, off-white square printed in top right corner, behind the text.

Wheeler Kearns

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Single sheet of paper with Wheeler Kearns logo printed against off-white square in top right corner.

Wheeler Kearns

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Envelope with Wheeler Kearns logo and address printed in bottom right corner.
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