The Dept. of Etc.

Small artifacts that are the garnish of most museum exhibits make a satisfying main course in a new National Air and Space Museum book.


IN A WAREHOUSE STOCKED WITH LEGENDARY aircraft and around-the-moon capsules, where can a lunchbox, a board game, and a leather mask be displayed for best effect? How should a squished tube of coffee compete for attention with the lifevest-orange X-1? Are there Feng Shui ramifications to placing a tea cup near a Minuteman missile? Imagine the delight of exhibit designers when some of flight’s more obscure mementos found the showcase they deserve in a new book.

Take a look through the gallery of artifacts featured in Carolyn Russo's Artifacts of Flight.

Litton Industries’ RX-1 hard-shell spacesuit was one of many failed prototypes developed for the Apollo program. NASM
Thousands of schoolchildren carried aluminum lunchboxes like this one, which from 1967 to 1978 was placed on a table to signal the start of “lunchbox forums” given by National Air and Space Museum curators about aviation and astronautics. NASM
Apollo 17 astronaut-geologist Harrison Schmitt wore these boots during the exploration of the moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow in December 1972. Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, the last astronauts to visit the moon, traveled several miles by rover and collected 243 pounds of soil, lava, and crust for analysis. Astronauts on previous missions left their footwear behind because of the extra weight it added to the lunar module during ascent from the moon, but Schmitt and Cernan recognized the significance of their last steps and brought their lunar-dusted boots back. NASM
In July 1918, the Smithsonian requested from the War Department samples of World War I military aviators' armament, equipment, and clothing to include in a new exhibition about the modern soldier. This wool-lined leather face mask was issued to Army pilots and flight crews to protect them from the extreme cold in open cockpits. With the advent of the oxygen mask in the 1930s, closed cockpits became more common, and flying masks were used less often. NASM
The “Off-Duty Activities Equipment Module” aboard the 1973–1979 Skylab space station stored books, music tapes, playing cards, Nerf balls, Velcro darts, exercise gear, and board games. These Scrabble tiles are backed with magnets to prevent them from floating off the game board in zero G. The game was considered for Skylab, but there is no evidence that it was ever flown. NASM
Early U.S. space food, like this tube of coffee used in 1981 aboard the space shuttle’s maiden flight, was typically stored in dehydrated form and then reconstituted with water generated by fuel cells. NASM
Astronomer Percival Lowell interpreted dark lines observed on Mars as water canals leading to areas of vegetation. This globe, which he built in 1901, reflects his controversial beliefs. NASM
Aeronautics authority Octave Chanute lent this French-made anemometer—wind-speed gauge—to the Wright brothers, who attached it to their gliders to measure flight duration and airspeed. NASM
On May 6, 1937, the luxury-laden Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36. Remarkably, this cup and saucer, part of the transatlantic airship’s china set, emerged from the catastrophe unbroken. NASM