Posts

Supersonic Challenges: The Installation of the F-5 Fighter Jet

Special thanks for this guest post to Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, Curator of Astronomy and Exhibition Developer, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.

Riddle us this: what moves faster than the speed of sound and lives in a gallery?

Give up?

Gulf Stream Aquarium Oculus

Gulf Stream Aquarium Oculus at the Frost Museum of Science. Photo by Ra-Haus.

The answer: a Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter, on loan to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science from the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The supersonic light fighter is capable of speeds faster than 1,000 miles per hour and you’ll find it hanging right over your head in the Feathers to the Stars exhibition, located in the Batchelor Foundation and Christine Allen Gallery, in the museum’s North Wing.

Frost Science, which officially opened its doors in Downtown Miami’s Museum Park on May 8, is truly a marvel of both architectural and engineering feats. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum features a three-level 500,000-gallon cone-shaped Gulf Stream Aquarium teeming with hammerhead sharks and dolphins, anchored by a 31-foot oculus lens that peers into the waters above. The Frost Planetarium, one of the most advanced facilities of its kind anywhere in the world, uses a 16-million-color, 3-D 8K visual system to send visitors hurtling through space and into the depths of the ocean. And with a fascinating roster of interactive exhibitions, it’s easy to spend an entire day exploring and being immersed in the power of science.

Now, about that Northrop—exactly how is an 8,000-pound airplane moved into a gallery? Teamwork. Lots of it. For that, Frost Science enlisted the help of an invaluable group of experts, including first-class airplane movers and riggers. The aircraft was brought into the building in three pieces (the fuselage, the wings and the tail) through a tight opening between the Frost Planetarium and the level three terraces. The intricate task took our crew 10 hours from beginning to end.

Breaking through the sound barrier is a relatively recent feat in human history. On October 14, 1947, Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager became the first to do so. Manning a rocket engine-powered Bell X-1, Yeager reached Mach 1.06— exceeding the speed of sound in level flight. (At 768 miles per hour, Mach 1 is equal to the speed of sound.)

Feathers to the Stars exhibition at Frost Museum of Science. Photo by Ra-Haus

Because sound waves move at a finite speed, moving sources can catch up with the sound waves they emit as they accelerate. As this happens, sound waves pile up in front of them. If the aircraft is fast enough, it can burst through them causing a sonic boom. The loud noise is a consequence of the change in pressure as the aircraft outruns all the sound waves ahead of itself.

That accomplishment came just over 40 years after Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first controlled, sustained flight of a heavier-than-air powered aircraft on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. And just over 20 years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. In less than a lifetime, humans mastered the sky and knocked on the door of space exploration.

Feathers to the Stars will carry you through the amazing story how ancient evolution gave birth to animal flight, and how humans used imagination and engineering to get airborne and explore the infinite possibilities of space. The exhibition also features a rocket engine, a rocket tail piece with jet deflector vanes, and a model of a V-2 missile (the world’s first guided missile) on loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Ultimately, Feathers to the Stars is a story driven by challenges—and perseverance. Ready for take-off? You can find more information on the exhibition here.

 

coming up in Affiliateland: May 2016

Washington, D.C.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, 5.5.

Smithsonian Affiliations welcomes staff from Affiliate organizations at a reception celebrating our 20th Anniversary on the first day of the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting, 5.26

Florida
Maria del Carmen Cossu, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service project manager, will serve as a juror at the Mayfaire Arts Festival at the Polk Museum of Art, 5.7.

The Mennello Museum of American Art opens Pop Art Prints, an exhibition of 37 items from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The installation includes works from the 1960s by Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and others. The installation is part of a series that highlights objects from the collection that are rarely on public view, opening 5.6.

Missouri
Last chance to see Above and Beyond at the Saint Louis Science Center. The exhibition celebrates the power of innovation to make dreams take flight and features two artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum. The exhibition closes 5.8.

California, Michigan, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado
Four Affiliates– Arab American National Museum, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, and History Colorado – and the National Museum of American History will connect via webcast to a live Youth Town Hall at the Japanese American National Museum for National Youth Summit: Japanese Incarceration in World War II, 5.17.

NYS_JAI_rgb_horz

Ohio
The Ohio History Connection will host a videoconference featuring Dr. Jeremy Kinney, curator at the National Air and Space Museum.  The videoconference will connect NASM with the Ohio History Connection and Stone Gardens Assisted Living Complex near Cleveland. Kinney will discuss the Enola Gay and its restoration while a curator from OHC will address the Ohio connections to the plane, 5.19.

Virginia
Last chance to see two of George Washington’s battle swords together for the first time in over 200 years. One sword is on loan to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens from the National Museum of American History. Exhibit closes 5.30.

clippings2Idaho
There’s still time to see Titanoboa: Monster Snake at the Idaho Museum of Natural History, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. On view through 6.12.