By Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
WASHINGTON D.C. — The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. is slated to open an exhibit March 2013 entitled, “Time and Navigation: The untold story of getting from here to there.”
The exhibit will explore how timekeeping has evolved throughout three centuries and how it influences navigation. Whether through the high seas, the air or even space, time plays an essential role.
“The possibilities of traveling in space inspired plans to navigate from space. Innovators tried different approaches to see whether radio transmissions from orbiting satellites could be used to determine positions on Earth,” according to the official Smithsonian website for the new exhibit. “They found that time from precise clocks on satellites, transmitted by radio signals, could in fact determine location. The military combined several systems into one and created the Global Positioning System.”
That new system, now operated by the men and women of the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., was a new joint program under the Air Force in 1973, and introduced synchronized time from space.
As a major player in the evolution of precise time, Schriever was given an opportunity to provide historical data for the “Time and Navigation” exhibit.
“[One of the sections in the exhibit] will feature five large screens oriented like portraits with a separate navigator from several eras located on each screen. One character represents a sea navigator from the mid-1800s; one character represents a space shuttle astronaut; one character represents a WWII air navigator; one character represents a modern civilian smartphone user; and one character represents a military navigator,” said Thomas Paone, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum technician. “These portraits will come to life, and the characters will speak to each other to explain why you need an accurate clock to know where you are.”
The military navigator portrait will be modeled after Capt. Bryony Veater, 2 SOPS payload systems operator and Weapons and Tactics Flight commander, who had the privilege of providing information about the uniform she wore in her latest deployment, to the Smithsonian for historical accuracy.
“[Veater’s] character will briefly explain how atomic clocks in GPS work and how the military uses the technology today,” said Paone.
In order to keep the names of characters generic, the name that will appear on the uniform is Sumner, as homage to Thomas Sumner, who first developed the concept of the Line of Position, a type of navigation used by seagoing vessels in the 19th century.
“The navigation and timing from GPS satellites plays such an important and often overlooked role in warfare,” said Veater. “I am excited and proud that my experiences both deployed and at Schriever will educate current and future generations about the significant role space plays into modern military operations.”
GPS, the world’s largest military satellite constellation, is used for much more than military operations. Uses of GPS include precise timing for financial transactions, search and rescue, communications, farming, recreation and both military and commercial aviation.
In addition to an exhibit on satellite navigation, the museum will also display Stanley, a self-navigating car, demonstrate a new system of air traffic control and show other examples of how navigation technology impacts everyday life.
For more information about the Smithsonian’s exhibit, visit bit.ly/128gCqn.