history stories

Today's leaps in technology are highly visible. Thanks to the Internet, you can learn about a breakthrough, process it and forget about it all within the same day. Machine miracles didn't always pass through us this quickly — before the Internet, they needed a venue. These venues were called world fairs. They were a place where you could go to see what the spirit of innovation was up to, and to have your mind thoroughly blown. It's this draw that is leading Ryan Ritchey, a video industry professional looking for funding on Kickstarter, to travel back to these bright, optimistic technological carnivals.
Do you make a point of going to bed early so that you can get eight solid hours of uninterrupted sleep? Well, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. Human sleep cycles were a lot different just a few hundred years ago, with waking up for a few hours in the middle of the night being the norm. We can likely blame technology for the change, and it may not be for the best.
Today, February 20th, is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's orbital spaceflight. In 1961, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth (three times!), which as far as I can tell, is why we're all taking the day off today. Such an achievement was one of the primary objectives of the Mercury Program, which preceded Gemini and Apollo. While Glenn was most definitely the first American to orbit, his mission (Mercury-Atlas 6) was the twenty-first Mercury mission. Before NASA was ready to launch a human into space, they had to make sure that the rockets were safe, the space capsules were safe, and that space itself was safe (since we had no idea). And NASA had to be absolutely, positively sure, because if they got it wrong, it would have disastrous implications for the future of space exploration. So. NASA tested everything out. Thoroughly. Before they ever sent a human to space, they had to get as close as they could get while not sending a human, and this means that the first American residents into space included two monkeys, two chimpanzees, and a robotic "crewman simulator." This is their story.
In the early 1880s, recording sound was a brand new thing. It was so brand new that people like Alexander Graham Bell and his buddies were still experimentin' with the best way to make it work. The Smithsonian has some of these trial-and-error recordings, and using 3D optical scanners, they've been able to play them back for the first time in over a century.
Now booking, now booking! Trips to the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn! Come one, come all, and reserve your trip into space today! At least, that's what you could have done at New York City's Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History back in 1950. That begs the question: if you could book an interplanetary flight today, where would you go? I'm still partial to the Red Planet, myself, though there are some interstellar options that are looking better every day.
On Saturday, November 19, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City will welcome a new special exhibit to its halls, titled "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration." Before you read any further, you should know this isn't just any ordinary space exhibit. Beyond Planet Earth isn't a collection of relics from the space race and a history of America's efforts to explore the vastness surrounding Earth. It's got that, sure, but what the exhibit is really about is where we're going: both in the near-term, and as far out as 500 years from now. More than that, it's either the first — or certainly one of the few — major exhibits that presents space exploration as a global effort, and one that will become more international as humanity reaches out into the stars. Beyond Planet Earth doesn't brush NASA under the carpet by any means, but the exploration of space is a human endeavor, and one that's adding new nations and corporations to its roster all the time. Read on to find out what you can expect to see beyond the cradle.