Saturday, February 7, 2015

Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity

Where: National Air and Space Museum

When: through June 8, 2015

It's one thing to get into a rocket and go into outer space; it's another to leave your rocket and really go into outer space.  This show is about the latter trip, which is described as "spacefaring" and more like swimming than walking.  You can see lots of equipment, from the early days of space travel to modern day suits.

It's a journey that has its dangers.  As the wall notes remind visitors, the human body is not designed to be in space.  You need a source of oxygen and a tether to the ship, plus space is both terribly cold and gets very direct sunlight, so astronauts need thick gloves to protect their hands.  The problem with thick gloves is that they don't allow very much movement of the fingers, which is usually necessary for whatever work takes the crew out of the ship.

At first, astronauts could only be outside of the ship for minutes at a time.  Now, they can be out for hours, conducting experiments, repairing equipment, and enjoying the view.

This show is in the "Flight and the Arts" room on the 2nd floor, and in addition to many photographs, there are also several paintings of EVA (extra-vehicular activity, which I can't help but think sounds like something you'd put on a college application).  I was happy to see an Alan Bean among the offerings; I saw a show of his work here several years ago.

Verdict: Air and Space was fairly empty last week when I stopped by.  I suppose this is a lull, between family trips at the holidays and school trips in the Spring.  If you're in the area, you might want to come now.  Also, the Spirit of St. Louis is currently sitting on the floor by the Mall entrance door, so you can have a much better look than usual.

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