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Archive for '- Space Race'

“The Conversation”

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original work, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel. 

Transcription of John Glenn's Flight Communications, February 28, 1962. (National Archives at Fort Worth, TX)

Transcription of John Glenn’s Flight Communications, February 28, 1962. (National Archives at Fort Worth, TX)

Today’s poem, “The Conversation” by Sandra Beasley, was inspired by her personal connection to the transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with NASA’s Command Center upon his retry after orbiting the earth.

U.S. Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to conduct a manned space orbit of the earth on February 20, 1962, aboard Friendship 7. Glenn traveled for nearly five hours, going 17,500 miles per hour, 160 miles above earth. He circled the planet three times before heading back.

This is the official transcript of his in-flight communication with Mission Control in Florida documenting the events upon reentry.

Despite some touch-and-go moments, and potential problems with his life-saving heat shield, the spacecraft, which Glenn had to manually control, splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Glenn, unhurt, was then picked up by the destroyer USS Noa off the coast of Bermuda.

The mission was a huge gain for the United States, which was then engaged in a the space race with … [ Read all ]

Merry Christmas from Space!

Telegram from Gordon Schorb, December 12, 1958, Eisenhower Presidential Library

Once upon a time, space was quiet. This was before satellites had cluttered the orbit of the earth, beaming TV shows and text messages and GPS coordinates.

Before 1958, space was very quiet.

On December 18, 1958, the Air Force placed the first communications satellite, a Project SCORE relay vehicle, into orbit.

And then, on December 19, the sound of the a human voice was transmitted through space. It was the voice of President Eisenhower, broadcasting a message of peace to the world below.

This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one. Through this unique means, I convey to you and all mankind America’s wish for peace on earth and good will to men everywhere.

Press release from the White House, December 19, 1958. Eisenhower Presidential Library.


Fewer than 100 people knew about the project, called SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment). The goal was to put an Atlas missile into orbit and to show that communications satellites could transmit messages to Earth. It was a huge technological breakthrough and a milestone in the space race.

Sputnik 1 had been successfully launched in 1957 and had an … [ Read all ]

Explore the new Digital Archives at the Kennedy Library

President Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962. In this speech he stated stated, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." (Kennedy Library)

President Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962. In this speech he stated, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." (Kennedy Library)

It’s always exciting to uncover a new piece of history, and even more exciting to discover a whole new treasure trove of thousands of pieces of history. Today the John F. Kennedy Library is launching a new Digital Archives that contains over 200,000 digitized documents; 300 reels of audiotape containing over 1,200 individual recordings of telephone conversations, speeches, and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of moving images; and 1,500 photos.

You can peruse the drafts of every speech delivered by the President, thousands of official White House photographs, audio of all of President Kennedy’s speeches, and video of press conferences during his years in office. And tags and categories help you find related records among all types of media.

For example, I browsed photographs of President Kennedy to find an illustration for this post, and the above picture caught my eye. After calling up the full record, I selected “Related Records” and was led to links to audio and video recordings of the September 12, 1962, speech at Rice University and to marked drafts and the reading copy of the speech.… [ Read all ]

Are you there Venus? It’s me, Earth

Earth rise over the lunar landscape, (412-DA-11453)

Earth rise over the lunar landscape (412-DA-11453)

Twenty years ago today, NASA dropped by our neighbor Venus to say hello and snap a few pictures. The Magellan probe entered orbit, took a terrestrial map of Venus, and then did something very rude: it crashed into the planet. Not very neighborly.

Still, we gathered plenty of data from that crash (and it’s debatable whether the wreckage of the Magellan even made it through the thick atmosphere), data that was sent back to earth, processed by the folks at NASA, and then distributed to the whole world on a newfangled piece of equipment called the Internet.

It was 1994. AOL was tops, and the sound of dial-up was as common as a telephone ring (an actual telephone ring, not a ringtone).  NASA has since preserved its Magellan website as a snapshot in time, and it’s a hoot. You can view high-resolution images that are smaller than a camera phone snapshot these days  (though it’d be tough to get a camera phone to Venus).

For more on NASA, and resources at the National Archives relating to space exploration, be sure to have a look at the Space Exploration section of our website.… [ Read all ]