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Guide to the NASA Ames Research Center Artifacts Collection, 1939-2009
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Series Description


Series I: Artwork 1946-1994

Physical Description: 74 items

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of original artwork, including seventy paintings, one lithograph, one sculpture, and drawings, the bulk of which were created in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the works in this series were commissioned by Ames for practical purposes, unlike NASA's art program launched in 1962 by administrator James Webb, in which renowned artists were invited to enrich the historical record of the momentous occasion of humankind's ascent into space. Ames hired local artists to depict projects and technologies pursued by the center's scientists and engineers. The works were used as illustrations for technical reports and presentations, and for publicity pieces, such as brochures, press releases and other informational handouts. The Public Information or Public Affairs Office would locate, hire, and pay the artists, and provide reproductions of their works, while scientists or engineers from the various units, such as the Pioneer Project Office, Space Projects Division, or Space Sciences Division, would help define the images they wanted illustrated. According to artist Rick Guidice, who produced the majority of the pieces in this series, scientists and engineers provided technical instruction and sometimes sketches of what they needed. And, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Public Affairs Office would pay artists such as Guidice about $800-$1500 per painting. Once completed, many of the works were professionally photographed by Ames photographers. While photographic reproductions were systematically numbered, cataloged, and archived, the paintings themselves were not, so this series represents a small portion of artwork commissioned by Ames.
Subjects range from astronomical artworks illustrating spacecraft and space scenes, to aircraft, SETI installations, and existing or proposed research facilities. The Pioneer Program managed by Ames is heavily represented in this series, with depictions of spacecraft, trajectories, and planetary encounters. While most provide concrete representations of technologies and research endeavors, some convey concepts, such as human exploration. For example, a collection of paintings and illustrations created by Rick Guidice for two different brochures juxtaposes the series of Pioneer spacecraft (Pioneers 1-13) flying through space with images of human exploration technologies over the centuries, such as dog sleds, ocean ships, hot air balloons, and covered wagon trains.
Images of space settlements are also well represented in this series. In the 1970s Ames researched the feasibility of setting up orbital space colonies in a series of summer studies, the first being a joint study hosted by Ames and Stanford University in 1975, with Gerard K. O'Neil from Princeton University as a participant. Paintings by Rick Guidice and Don Davis illustrating the settlement designs came out of these efforts. Depicted are orbital colonies, with their residential and work modules, farming, animal husbandry, and mining operations, as well as support apparatuses necessary for building, powering, and supplying settlements.
Artists identified include Robert Bausch, Chesley Bonestell, Christopher Cross, Don Davis, Carter Emmart, Michael Fornalski, Gebing, Rick Guidice, Peter Gutkin, Attila Hejja, Paul Hudson, Lucille Maritz Mastin, Ludek Pesek, and Robert Rauschenberg. The bulk of the items were created by Rick Guidice.
Other items of note are:
  • Lucille Maritz Mastin drawing (pencil on mylar, 1946) of the Twelve Foot Wind Pressure Tunnel, depicting this NACA-era wind tunnel in detail, with cutaways exposing the inside and showing machinery, controls, operators, and the wind tunnel propeller blades.
  • Robert Rauschenberg lithograph (1970), "White Walk" from the Stoned Moon Series, signed and dated by the artist. Edition 19 of 53, this three-color lithograph represents a celebration of NASA's Apollo mission to the moon. The series was commissioned by NASA Headquarters as part of the NASA Art Program.
  • Chesley Bonestell painting (1976) entitled "Pittsburgh at L-2" signed by the artist. Depicted here is a machine with international markings docked at an asteroid to conduct mining operations. Three astronauts engaged in a space walk float in formation like sprightly acrobats at one end of the station, while a red and white spaceship approaches.

Series II: Models 1957-2009

Physical Description: 361 items

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of aircraft, spacecraft and other models created from about 1957 through 2009. Included are wind tunnel models, desktop, and large display models (some to scale), partial- to full-scale engineering mockups, and technical models.
Wind tunnel models include a Galileo Jupiter probe descent module, an unidentified space probe, M2 and HL-10 lifting bodies, an X-36 aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas 279-3 aircraft, airfoils, a helicopter rotor, and an aircraft flap. These are variously composed of steel, stainless steel, brass, aluminum, composite, and wood, and range in size from a few inches to several feet across, with some weighing hundreds of pounds.
Aircraft display models include lifting bodies and experimental space plane designs (M2, X-38 Crew Return Vehicle, Rockwell X-30 National Aero-Space Plane, Orbital Sciences X-34), oblique wing designs, supersonic transport vehicles, airborne science platforms (Boeing DC-8 Airborne Laboratory, C-130 Earth Resources Aircraft, Lockheed U-2 Earth Survey Aircraft/ER-2 High Altitude Research Aircraft, Boeing 747SP Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), experimental aircraft (Martin Marietta X-24C Hypersonic Research Vehicle, Grumman X-29A, Sikorsky Rotor Systems Research Aircraft X-Wing, McDonnell Douglas X-36 Tailless Fighter Agility Research Aircraft, Bell XV-15 Tilt Rotor), and others such as the Northrop T-38 Talon, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Quiet Short-haul Research Aircraft, and the Antonov An-225 Mriya CCCP-82060 heavy lift Soviet cargo plane, with space shuttle "Buran" mounted on top. These models are composed of wood, plastic, and metal, and many have display stands.
Spacecraft models include Explorer 12, Mariner 4, Pioneers 6-9, 10 and 11 (Pioneers Jupiter and Saturn), 12 and 13 (Pioneer Venus orbiter and multiprobe bus), Viking, Galileo, and versions of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. These models are made of metal and plastic, and many have display stands with identifying placards.
The bulk of this series is a collection of 278 plastic models, comprising tiny replicas of international military and domestic aircraft designs from 1908 through 1946.
Items of note:
  • A multi-colored plexiglass technical model built by Charles P. Sonnett that illustrates a "collision-free" magnetohydrodynamic shock observed by the three-axis fluxgate magnetometer on Mariner II.
  • A full-scale engineering mockup of Pioneers 6-9, a series of identical spin-stabilized, solar cell and battery-powered satellites launched in the 1960s to orbit the Sun and study solar and interplanetary phenomena such as the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field. This mockup is constructed from actual flight materials, such as real solar cells, and appears to be fully wired and instrumented.
  • A full-scale engineering mockup of internal features of the Galileo Jupiter Probe's descent module, constructed out of wood with paper markers.
  • Scale models used by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board to study the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle accident. This set, which was used by G. Scott Hubbard, includes Space Shuttle wing leading edge components composed of plastic, a reinforced carbon carbon (RCC) T-seal cross-section, and a reproduction of the foam believed to have struck the shuttle's wing.

Series III: Scientific Instruments 1940s-1980s

Physical Description: 65 items

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of scientific instruments that were either created or used by people at NASA Ames. Included are instruments designed by the center's scientists and engineers for space science applications, such as spacecraft scientific experiment flight spares and engineering mockups. Other tools used in the course of research and development efforts include various manual and electronic calculators, computer components, balances, galvanometers, and surveying instruments.
Items of note:
  • Prototype of the lunar surface magnetometer designed during the Apollo program. This type of magnetometer accompanied Apollo missions 12, 15 and 16 as part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ASLEP), housed in the Lunar Module.
  • Pioneer era science instruments, such as a cosmic dust detector (Pioneer 8-9), plasma analyzer (Pioneer 10-11), Geiger Tube Telescope (Pioneer 10-11), and nephelometer (Pioneer Venus).
  • Galileo Jupiter space probe flight spares, such as an atmospheric structure instrument with temperature sensor.

Series IV: Equipment

Physical Description: 13 items

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of pieces of equipment used in flight research and testing, airborne science, and virtual reality applications from about the 1940s through the 1980s. As with the scientific instruments series in this collection, some of the objects were designed by people at Ames. Of note is a virtual reality data glove designed during the mid 1980s for use in the Virtual Environment Workstation (VIEW), as a step toward using robotics to remotely automate space stations some day. Also of note is a Space Shuttle Spacelab life science experiment module. Standing approximately twelve feet high and three and a half feet wide, this massive piece of hardware was designed for life science research in zero gravity. Included is a glove box type of enclosure, electronics box assembly, and power switching panel.

Series V: Awards 1935-2002

Physical Description: 36 items

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of plaques, trophies, medals, certificates and other commendations conferred on NASA Ames and individuals. Some honors are internal to NASA but most are from various national and international institutions. Commendations for the Pioneer missions (10-13) are among the most prestigious awards in this collection.
Items of note:
  • Langley Gold Medal awarded to Joseph Sweetman Ames by the Smithsonian Institution in 1935. Since 1927, the award has only been given to twenty one individuals.
  • Collier Trophy given to Lewis A. Rodert for "His pioneering research and guidance in the development and practical application of a thermal ice-prevention system for aircraft."
  • Columbus medal and certificate given to Ames Research Center by the City of Genoa, Italy for engineering humankind's first encounters with the planet Jupiter with the flights of Pioneers 10 and 11.
  • Diplomas (Diplome d'Honneur) awarded to Ames from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI): one in 1979 for the Pioneer missions to Venus and another in 1999 for the Lunar Prospector mission.

Series VI: Ephemera and Commemorative Items 1975-2003

Physical Description: 19 items

Scope and Content Note

This series mainly includes plaques, coins, certificates, patches, postage stamps, and other items commemorating anniversaries, missions, and collaborations. Included are framed replicas of the gold-colored anodized aluminum Pioneer 10 plaque, dubbed the "First Work of Art to Leave the Solar System;" handmade plaques commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ames; a plexiglass cylinder commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program, which began at Ames; and a plaque dedicating an Ames research facility to the memory of Carl Sagan (the facility, sited for the northwest portion of the Ames campus near building N249, was never built). Of note is a framed National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) testimonial in tribute to Joseph S. Ames (original, circa 1939), which is signed by special committee members, including Vannevar Bush, Charles A. Lindbergh, and Orville Wright.

Series VII: Exhibits and Signage 1946-2009

Physical Description: 64 items

Scope and Content Note

This series is composed of educational exhibits, as well as signage and wall display material put on view around the center over the years. Included are a large, wooden sign with NACA logo hand-carved in the shape of the NACA wings, framed items such as center director portraits, 70th anniversary signage, and exhibits featuring such things as reusable thermal protection tiles, ablated materials, casts of tektites found around the world, computer arrays, and the Pioneer 11 trajectory.

Series VIII: Miscellaneous

Physical Description: 13 items

Scope and Content Note

This series contains an assortment of miscellaneous objects: thermal protection material samples, such as Space Shuttle tiles and Avocat, a table with beveled glass top and legs made from wind tunnel blades, and desktop sculptures featuring core capabilities of Ames.