Smithsonian dedicates new exhibition to navigation

Apr 10, 2013
A member of the media looks at "Stanley," a vehicle designed to move without remote control and without a driver at the "Time and Navigation" exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington on April 10, 2013. The exhibition explores how revolutions in timekeeping over three centuries have influenced how people find their way.

Smithsonian curators found themselves chasing the proverbial moving target when they put together a new permanent exhibition opening Friday that explains how people get from A to B.

The front end of "Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There" was simple enough, as it links the history of modern navigation to the development of ever-more-precise timepieces since the 14th century.

But keeping pace with modern-day advances in (GPS) technology in smartphones and other was quite another matter for a project that's been in works for more than five years.

"We knew things were shrinking (in size) but the iPhone was kind of a surprise to everybody" involved in the exhibition at the Smithsonian's , co-curator Andrew Johnston told AFP.

A member of the media explores the "Time and Navigation" exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, April 10, 2013.

A disassembled black smartphone with a GPS receiver, , gyroscope and accelerometer all packed into a wafer-thin, finger-length circuit board is so small, it's easy to miss in its exhibition case.

On the other hand, it's hard to skip over the bulky inertial navigation system once fitted within a US nuclear submarine, a pre-GPS Transit satellite or primitive boxy radio equipment from World War II bombers.

"We were very much aware of GPS, but we also realize that most people don't understand how important navigation and timing are to our daily lives," said space historian Paul Ceruzzi, another of the show's four curators.

" are invisible, they're thousands of miles away .. but they are every bit as important as electric power to our daily lives, and we wanted to tell that story," he told AFP during a press preview Wednesday.

Other exhibits include the first made-in-America marine chronometer, assembled from a French model during the War of 1812; the single-engine airplane Winnie Mae in which aviator Wiley Post circumnavigated the world in the 1930s; and a robot SUV called Stanley that can find its way on its own.

"Some of these objects hopefully we'll be able to change out," said Johnston, pointing to a model of an indoor GPS system for firefighters that is still in the development stage.

Explore further: Movie world fears for freedom of speech as N.Korea parody pulled

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China launches gps satellite: report

Apr 15, 2009

China launched a navigational satellite, the nation's space administration reported, the second in a series of up to 30 orbiters to comprise a global positioning network.

Japan eyes building its own GPS system

Jan 05, 2011

Japan is considering launching new satellites to establish its own global positioning system (GPS) in a bid to reduce its reliance on the US navigation network, officials said on Wednesday.

Russia surprised as Apple uses Glonass in new iPhone

Oct 20, 2011

The secret is out and making Russia proud: pop culture and geek tech icon Apple has picked Russia's Glonass navigation system to run alongside GPS in its iPhone 4S models that hit stores this month.

China's satellite navigation system live

Dec 27, 2011

China's home-grown satellite navigation system launched a limited positioning service Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency said, as the country seeks to break its dependence on foreign technology.

Recommended for you

Report: FBI's anthrax investigation was flawed

2 hours ago

The FBI used flawed scientific methods to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others, federal auditors said Friday in a report sure to fuel skepticism over the FBI's ...

Study reveals mature motorists worse at texting and driving

Dec 18, 2014

A Wayne State University interdisciplinary research team in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has made a surprising discovery: older, more mature motorists—who typically are better drivers in ...

Napster co-founder to invest in allergy research

Dec 17, 2014

(AP)—Napster co-founder Sean Parker missed most of his final year in high school and has ended up in the emergency room countless times because of his deadly allergy to nuts, shellfish and other foods.

LA mayor plans 7,000 police body cameras in 2015

Dec 16, 2014

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan Tuesday to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with on-body cameras by next summer, making LA's police department the nation's largest law enforcement agency to move ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.