t’s time again to test your knowledge of American history, as told through the National Portrait Gallery’s fabulous collections. This month, Pop Quiz will focus on space travel, from the intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union played out the international space race to the multitude of movies, TV shows and comics that were inspired by space exploration. Participate by yourself or as a team; winners take home prizes!
Nothing can be more emblematic of humanity’s insatiable appetite for exploration, or for that matter, propensity for competition, than the space race of the mid-twentieth century. While the rest of the world was reeling from the horrors of World War II, the United States kicked off its battle with the Soviet Union, a battle for international prestige and technological superiority that would last the duration of the Cold War.
In 1957 the Soviets successfully launched the first manmade object, Sputnik, into the atmosphere. Overnight, what was previously the stuff of science fiction became a reality. Indeed, the question of what exists beyond earth’s atmosphere has been a topic of intrigue since ancient times. The ancient Greeks created complicated narratives based on the formulations of the stars, and the Maya and Olmec peoples devoted entire temples to the heavens. To this day, seafarers rely on the stars for navigation, while modern sci-fi writers look outside the boundaries of this planet for sources of inspiration.
The Portrait Gallery’s Pop Quiz will take place in the Kogod Courtyard on Wednesday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m. Snacks and beverages will be available for purchase at the museum’s cafe, so come on down and enjoy a night of trivia and make some new friends in the process! Live long and prosper.
Here is a sneak peek from this month’s bonus question, worth ten points!
Richard Nixon was in office for all of the astronaut landings on the moon, although these accomplishments are attributed more to the work of previous presidents. Nixon’s greatest addition to the space program was his 1972 approval of the development of the space shuttle, which had its first launch in 1981.
How many space shuttle missions were launched from 1981 to 2011?
Richard Milhous Nixon,/ by Norman Percevel Rockwell / Oil on canvas, 1968 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; donated to the people of the United States of America by the Richard Nixon Foundation, © The Norman Rockwell Estate Licensing Co.