Evening Event at Air and Space Draws Hundreds

A New Way to Enjoy the Smithsonian

Jennifer Levasseur, Michael Soluri, and John Grunsfeld talk photography and space at an event at the Air and Space on Friday, Feb. 13. Photo: Madeleine Deason

A sold out after-hours event at the National Air and Space Museum featuring the museum’s newest exhibit, Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity, was attended by approximately 200 people on Friday.

The event, titled Scenes from a Spacewalk: A Starry Night at the National Air and Space Museum, was held in the exhibit, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first spacewalks with photography, art, and artifacts.

There was food and drink, and an opportunity to take a Polaroid selfie with a space suit. But the main attraction was two panels with the exhibit curator Jennifer Levasseur, photographer and author Michael Soluri, and NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate and former astronaut John Grunsfeld.

Some of Grunsfeld’s photographs from space and Soluri’s photographs of space tools are on display in the exhibit. Soluri also trained astronauts, including Grunsfeld, on how to take more artistic space photography.

The speakers reflected on their work, discussed the impact of the first spacewalks, and cracked a few jokes.

Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Photo: Michael Soluri

Soluri said he thinks that exhibits like this that look at our history are very important. “Everything has its beginnings.”

At the time of the first spacewalks, there was a sense that there was always something new being discovered, he said. “I think what [Levasseur] did was try to relate that with photographs, and showing the actual objects.”

Soluri said the exhibit also raises other questions. “Why aren’t we orbiting around Earth? Why aren’t we back at the moon?”

Astronaut John M. Grunsfeld photographs his own reflection on the Hubble Space Telescope. Image courtesy of NASA.

Grunsfeld was born in the same year as NASA, and grew up during an exciting time for space travel, he said.

He said he hopes that visitors to the exhibit will see how much spacewalking has evolved in 50 years.

“This is real exploration,” similar to the first artic explorers, he said. “Space is the frontier.”

Grunsfeld also took time to join the attendees in sharing his experience by tweeting #Spacewalk50.

John Grunsfeld tweet Spacewalk50.

Many couples came out for the Valentine’s Eve event.

Grace Beauseigneur bought tickets as a surprise gift for her boyfriend Bobby Thorborg who loves space and physics.

“I didn’t even know I was coming here until about 10 minutes ago,” said Thorborg.

Beauseigneur and Thorburg are both locals from Virginia and said they learned interesting information, like the amount of work that goes into preserving and displaying a space suit.

The Air and Space museum is planning more evening events like this one as a new way to reach out to the local community, according to the museum’s public affairs specialist Nicholas Partridge.

The next Starry Night program is planned for March.

Astronauts Greg Chamitoff and Michael Fincke, both STS-134 mission specialists, spent seven hours and 24-minutes on this EVA. Image courtesy of NASA.