AirSpace show


Summary: The National Air and Space Museum contains the largest and most significant collection of air- and spacecraft in the world. Behind those amazing machines are thousands of stories of human achievement, failure, and perseverance. Join Emily, Matt, and Nick as they demystify one of the world’s most visited museums and explore why people are so fascinated with stories of exploration, innovation, and discovery.

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 Survivor | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:13

They say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, particularly when you’re looking for signs of extraterrestrial life. Is that a Martian bacterium you just found, or is it an Earth bug accidentally along for the ride? An Israeli spacecraft recently crashed on the Moon, unintentionally spilling a payload of adorable, microscopic extremophiles called tardigrades (aka water bears or moss piglets). Tardigrades can survive a lot of harsh environments, including the hard vacuum of space, and may now be alive on the lunar surface. In the final episode of season 2, Emily, Nick, and Matt discuss the implications of tardigrades on the Moon, and why scientists are working hard to ensure that microbes from Earth aren’t contaminating our search for life in the solar system. Water Bears on the Moon! Planetary Defense! Outer Space Law!

 Out of the Frying Pan | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:56

There are more than a dozen Earth-born satellites orbiting Mars. Why send another? Today’s episode highlights a movie with answers…Science to be done! Engineering challenges to overcome! National prestige! Personal Moonshots! Because it’s there!  Based on India’s 2014 Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the new Hindi-language film Mission Mangal has all of this and more, plus all the energy and charm of a genre-melding Bollywood feature. Why do countries invest in space exploration, why do people devote their careers to places millions of miles away, and what does all of this have to do with fried bread?  Emily, Matt, and Nick unpack story behind their new favorite space movie (yes, it’s even better than Armageddon!).

 Every Rose Has Its Thorn | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 24:27

Today on the show, we tackle the meaning of life. Well… not really. But definitely matters of consequence. We are talking about the beloved children’s book that taught us the meaning of friendship and the value of a child-like perspective – The Little Prince. Odds are you’ve read the book – but do you know the story behind the parable? Nick sits down with biographer Stacey Schiff and journalist Martin Buckley to unravel the larger-than-life story of the book’s author (and famous flier) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Hear how this hero of early French aviation called on his life experience and personal philosophy to pen one of the most widely read stories of ALL time. PLUS crash landings, asteroids, and war stories!

 What’s He Building? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 19:32

Alt title: ADAM SAVAGE IS IN THIS EPISODE! Today we’re talking about a really cool project that brought together one former-Mythbuster, a couple of Smithsonian units, and makers across the country to reimagine an incredible piece of Apollo engineering.  The hatch (aka door) on the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia is SUPER complex and basically irresistible if you’re into solving mechanical puzzles – so much so that master builders Adam Savage and Jen Schachter wanted to recreate it with the help of a few dozen friends. They brought together 44 artists and engineers from across the country to fabricate individual components of the hatch using 3D-scan data from the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office. Then Adam and team assembled it live at the Museum in DC during the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. On this episode we hear what happens when lasers, power tools, and a live studio audience (safely) collide! P.S. Want to build your own Apollo 11 hatch? Visit to view the 3D model and download the .stl files and drawings used by the Project Egress team. Post your photos and tag #ProjectEgress!

 Night Witches | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:29

Today (tonight?) we’re talking about a chilling chapter from flight history— Night Bomber Regiment 588. They were a group of about 80 Soviet women who flew combat missions during World War II. Led by famous Russian pilot Marina Raskova, these fearless aviatrixes would fly across German lines under cover of darkness and drop bombs from their WWII bi-planes, striking targets on the ground and terror in the hearts of their enemies. They became so feared by the German army that they were dubbed the die Nachthexen, or the Night Witches. This isn’t a lame Halloween story, this is badass history.

 Walking on the Moon Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 29:21

Next week is the 50th anniversary of our first steps on the Moon! In our last exciting episode, we explored all the science the Apollo astronauts performed on the lunar surface. In part two, we’re talking about the important science still happening with Apollo Moon rocks here on Earth a half-century later. Of all the 842 pounds of lunar material the astronauts collected up there, three samples were sealed away for scientists to study far in the future. And the future is now! We’ll speak to two scientists from NASA Goddard who will be working with the heretofore sealed samples, which are still in pristine, untouched condition from when astronauts of yesteryear plucked them off our nearest celestial neighbor. And Emily speaks to Lunar geologist Dr. Jennifer Whitten who’s working on a proposal to send a rover back to the Moon to carry on Apollo’s legacy of lunar exploration. Lunar science of the future happens now!

 Walking on the Moon Part 1 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 26:39

50 years ago this July, humans set foot on the Moon for the first time. You probably know the highlights – Kennedy’s moonshot challenge, Armstrong’s first small steps, three astronauts returned safely to Earth – but there was more to the Apollo program than getting there and back. When we landed Americans on the Moon, there was a lot we didn’t know about our nearest celestial neighbor. Would the astronauts sink into the lunar dust like quicksand? Would they encounter extraterrestrial germs and bring them back to infect the Earth? What would could rocks and dirt (regolith, actually) tell us about how the Moon formed? To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, AirSpace examines what we knew then, what we know now, and what mysteries of lunar science still remain. And we’ll admit, we’re just a *little *excited about the upcoming anniversary. So much so, this is part ONE of TWO.

 Rock on the Moon | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 18:19

What music would you take along on a quarter-million mile road trip? For the crew of Apollo 11, it was a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, and a little bit of… theremin?! In this episode, Emily, Matt, and Nick discuss the music of the cosmos, or at least what makes a good lunar soundtrack. Matt interviews one of his childhood heroes—Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull—who breaks down his song inspired by Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot (and first director of the National Air and Space Museum!), Michael Collins. And we find out what visitors to the world’s largest space party would put on their Moonshot mixtape.   

 Help! | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 28:34

Some of the world’s best pilots are the ones you hope never to see. They fly into places too dangerous for others to navigate, braving extremes to save human lives. In this episode, we’re talking about air rescue. Nick speaks to Chris Kilgore, a Coast Guard search and rescue pilot who evacuated survivors from an oil tanker collision in Galveston Bay. And we hear from AirSpace listener and air ambulance pilot Brian Shaw who serves remote communities in Canada, sometimes flying into airports that are not much more than a clearing in the trees. Be advised, this episode contains dramatic rescue stories and has descriptions that some listeners might find disturbing.

 Big Iron | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:01

Space exploration is a geocentric endeavor. Everywhere we look in the solar system, we learn something new about Earth. Scientists believe our planet has a metallic inner core, but we can’t exactly crack it open and check. Instead, NASA is sending a mission to an asteroid named Psyche, which appears to be a nickel-iron planetary core a lot like the one at the center of the Earth. Heavy metal fans Emily and Matt discuss this mission to pick up the pieces of an early protoplanet to better understand the ground beneath our feet. Special thanks to: Exzel Music Publishing for use of Chopin Scherzo no.1, also Noise Noir, Bristol Stories and Scampsie.

 AirSpace Live at SXSW | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 22:20

In this special episode recorded at SXSW, Emily, Matt, and Nick recount stories of failure and how they’ve inspired a whole lot of success in science and space exploration. From how the failed Concorde led to important scientific research and a better understanding of our world, to how the crew of Apollo 13 overcame malfunction by having simulated every possible scenario, the hosts explore how failure doesn’t always mean catastrophe. And special guest Bobak Ferdowsi from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory discusses how the NASA culture embraces the possibility of failure by testing and planning for every conceivable outcome. Special thanks to our host, the Aerospace Industries Association!

 Hail to the Chief | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 31:36

On this episode of AirSpace we’re talking about the most *exclusive *form of public transportation – presidential flight. When you’re the President, flying on Air Force One has its perks, but what about when you’re the one at the controls? And what’s it like to hitch a ride on one of the most recognizable aircraft on Earth? Air Force historian Dr. Brian Laslie explains how Air Force One became an icon of aviation, and former NPR White House reporter Scott Horsley talks about his experience riding in the press cabin (spoiler – no checked luggage!). And Nick caught up with former Marine One pilot Matt Howard who recounted what it’s like to fly the President in good times and during one of the worst times imaginable.

 BONUS BRIEFING | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 07:48

As you may have heard, astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to perform a spacewalk today. It would have been the first all-woman spacewalk in history. Based on feedback from McClain following her March 22 spacewalk, NASA decided to alter the astronaut assignments. Why the change? AirSpace hosts Emily, Matt, and Nick break down the multiple factors at play.

 R-O-V-E-R R-E-S-P-E-C-T | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:55

AirSpace listeners know that no space mission is complete without a cool name, and there’s no “higher” recognition than having a space probe named in your honor (see what we did there?). When we heard that the European Space Agency named its new Mars rover after our favorite British molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin, we were so stoked. Franklin played a key role in unraveling of the structure of DNA, but she hasn’t always gotten the recognition she deserved for that critical contribution. Our intrepid hosts explore the legacy of the real Rosalind Franklin, who helped us understand life on Earth, and the future of her namesake robot, who is going to search for signs of life on Mars.

 Get Off of My Cloud | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 21:31

Welcome to SEASON 2 of AirSpace! We’re back with more stories that defy gravity, and in this exciting episode, we’ll hear about one man’s terrifying ordeal trying to get back down to the ground. Longtime listeners know that bailing out of an airplane is a last resort that pilots take very seriously. But what happens when you unwittingly eject straight into a thundercloud? The already-harrowing journey to safe ground becomes a rollercoaster of howling wind, pounding hail and deafening thunderclaps. Emily, Matt, and Nick will talk to experts who know just how dangerous cumulonimbus clouds can be, and explore the story of William Rankin, who found out firsthand.


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