Before the Wright Brothers and airplanes, hot air balloons dominated the skies. Today we’re going to explore the origin of the hot air balloon, and we’re going to do it with an old time radio show: the original podcast. First aired September 17, 1946, ‘The Birth of the Balloon’ is a dramatized recreation of what people in 1946 thought the early days of ballooning might have been like based on their understanding of history.
Welcome to the
Flight Deck Podcast
Listen to all of the Museum’s best aviation and aerospace stories on the Flight Deck Podcast, a podcast that makes history personal. Episodes released every other Tuesday. We hope you enjoy it!!
What does it take to turn real-life war stories into a game? Jason Morningstar, Creative Director of Bully Pulpit Games, released the tabletop roleplaying game Night Witches in 2015 with the goal of connecting players with the history of Soviet women who flew night raids over the Nazis during World War II. In this episode of The Flight Deck, he and host Sean Mobley discuss the true stories and people who inspired the game, as well as the challenges game designers face adapting something as serious as wartime experiences into a fun, compelling, respectful game.
Teasel Muir-Harmony, Curator of the Apollo program at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, once again joins host Sean Mobley in this conclusion to the two-episode series on the political history of the Apollo program. In this episode, she talks about the classic 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and its place in Apollo political history, how domestic and international perceptions of the Apollo program varied quite significantly, and what role museums have in helping people deconstruct their understandings of history when new research challenges long-held ideas previously accepted as fact. We highly recommend listening to the previous episode before this one.
Returning guest Teasel Muir-Harmony, Curator of the Apollo program at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, joins host Sean Mobley for a Q&A about her book Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo. In this first of a two-part series, Teasel sets the stage and talks about the wider global context within which the US space program operated. We discussed the American politicians who encouraged and shaped panic around Sputnik and the space race, the importance of symbolism in a lot of the images and actions the astronauts took both on the moon and here on Earth, and how racism was a national security risk which the space program was partially designed to counter.
This episode takes a break from talking aviation and space history to have a conversation with someone making history right now. Bryné Hadnott, a science writer and founder of Space Out STEM. With a career that has ranged from hard space science to historical writing, Bryné is a rising star in the aerospace and science fields. Fortunately for The Museum of Flight, she’s also a mentor for the Michael P. Anderson program, a free education opportunity for students from underserved communities named in honor of Michael P. Anderson, an African-American astronaut who was killed Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. In our conversation, Bryné and I talked about her journey to study the stars through the maze of academia, the science fiction that inspires her, and the importance of community and resilience in the face of adversity.
Evoking images of glamorous air travel and high society, the Boeing 314 Clipper is one of the most romanticized aircraft in history. These massive flying boats ferried passengers, mostly for PanAm, to Hawaii and other vacation destinations. Museum of Flight Docent Bill McCutcheon shares the history of the Clipper, its prominent use by the government during World War II, and the legacy of this short-lived but well-remembered aircraft.
We think of history in terms of grand, sweeping events and often forget that actual humans are at the center of it. Today’s episode reminds us that people drive history, everyday people like you and me who are swept up or have to react to these larger events. The discussion centers around Mike Caputo, a World War II B-24 Navigator, and his daughter Yvonne, the woman who helped him open up about the wartime experiences he’d hidden deep inside. While helping her father document his story in his own voice, she forged a stronger connection with him that she carries even today after he’s passed away.
It’s common to hear a visitor to The Museum of Flight wonder how astronauts go to the bathroom in space. Today is the continuation of a conversation with Museum of Flight staff member Brenda Mandt, who spearheads the tours of the Museum’s NASA Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer, where she talks about modern space toilets on the Space Shuttle and on the ISS. She also talks about what did and didn’t about toilet and personal care needs when women joined the US space program. As with the previous episode (which you can listen to here), this is a frank and honest conversation about toilets and what goes in them, so listen to learn more but maybe not while you’re snacking.
“How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?” This is a question we hear often at the Museum, asked by people young and old from all around the world. Host Sean Mobley enlisted Museum of Flight expert Brenda Mandt, one of the masterminds behind the Museum’s NASA Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer Tours, to investigate how humans carry out this universal body function in space. In this first of two episodes, Brenda shares about the early tests and solutions developed for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. They were messy and uncomfortable!
Bill Wilson, a Vietnam Veteran and Museum of Flight Docent, features in this episode of The Flight Deck, sharing his story of bailing out of his crashing General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark just a few miles from Hanoi, the capital of the Communist government of Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. Surrounded by hills, jungle, and enemy combatants, Wilson did everything he could to evade capture long enough for a rescue attempt, a situation made more complicated by the constantly changing weather which foiled efforts to extract him.