December 21, 2012 1:30 pm
Light up your world with Santas, Christmas lights and general holiday joy with the story map from ESRI embedded above. (See here for the full screen experience.) The map was created by using APIs from Flickr and YouTube, pulling photos and videos that were both geotagged with latitude and longitude coordinates and tagged with four keywords: Santa Claus, Christmas Lights, Christmas Tree, and Holidays. (Naturally, since the map pulls the English tags, the feed is mostly in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.)
Among the ESRI team’s favorite finds:
- A rowhouse in San Francisco’s Castro District that’s decked in lights.
- Estes Park, Colorado, is similarly decked out
- Santa’s new classic ride in Van Buren, Arkansas
The map will change continuously through the holidays as the feed pulls the last 200 photographs and 100 videos—keep checking back, and let us know below what your favorites are!
More from Smithsonian.com
October 17, 2012 12:44 pm
Fifty years ago today, at the outset of the Cuban missile crisis, military exercises began under the code name Operation ORTSAC (Castro in reverse). On October 14, 1962, a U2 spy plane captured photographs that sparked the beginning of the crisis. CIA analysts identified “San Cristobal No. 1″, a medium-range ballistic missile site, capable of launching nuclear weapons nearly 1200 miles. Three days later, on October 17, 1962, more than 40 U.S. warships headed to Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico, for training exercises. The Joint Chiefs had been planning scenarios for an amphibious assault on Cuba for months, but President Kennedy, still smarting from placing his trust in the military leaders during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, was reticent to pursue military action.
Bill Ober, now of Huntington, New York, was one of the Marines on Vieques (Blue Beach to be specific). After reading Michael Dobbs’ story in the October issue of Smithsonian, Ober passed along these never-before-seen photographs of what the training exercises entailed:
“In the Higgins boat heading towards the beach. I’m the Marine on the right.”
“Sweaty troops on the beach prepare to move out.”
“Climbing down rope ladders from the troop transport. We had made the long voyage from California through the Panama Canal.”
“Looking down the nets toward the boats.”
“Jeeps and tanks on the beach ready to ‘attack.’”
Dobbs is also the author of One Minute to Midnight, a tick-tock history of the crisis. Almost a week into the events, shortly after Kennedy addressed the country in a televised speech, the President cancelled the training on Vieques as the military advanced to DEFCON 2. Dobbs writes about the invasion preparations:
The plan was for the Marines to attack east of Havana, at Tarara [Beach], while the 1st Armored Division landed through the port of Mariel to the west. In the meantime, the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions would conduct a paratroop assault behind enemy lines. In its initial sweep, the invading force would skirt Havana and head directly for the missile sites. …
Whatever happened, casualties were likely to be heavy. The Marines were prepared for five hundred dead the first day alone –mainly on Tarara beach — and a further two thousand injured. Total casualties during the first ten days of fighting were estimated at over eighteen thousand, including four thousand dead. The Marine Corps would account for nearly half.
Fortunately, no such attack ever happened. The naval quarantine of Cuba was successful and Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev negotiated a gradual stand-down, with the Soviet Union pulling their missiles out of Cuba and the United States eventually removing theirs (covertly) from Turkey. If you’re interested in more about the crisis and how the Kennedy administration avoided nuclear war (and having to send Ober and his fellow Marines into battle), check out the JFK Library’s stunning “Clouds Over Cuba” package. It has more video and primary source materials than any history buff could ever want.
More from Smithsonian.com:
August 25, 2012 5:03 pm
The man who uttered the iconic phrase, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” has died today at the age of 82 years old. As reported by the Associated Press, Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular problems.
On that momentous day of July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon’s surface for three hours, collecting rock samples, taking photographs and conducting experiments. From the AP obit:
“The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to,” Armstrong once said.
The moonwalk marked America’s victory in the Cold War space race that began Oct. 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, a 184-pound satellite that sent shock waves around the world.
Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamor of the space program.
“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
The Guardian offers a nice background on his rise to NASA:
Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and from a young age was fascinated with aviation, experimenting with model airplanes and a home-built wind tunnel. At 15 he began flying lessons in an Aeronca Champion, and by 16 acquired his student pilot’s licence. In 1947, he enrolled at Purdue University on a Navy scholarship to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering, but in 1949 the Navy called him to active duty in the Korean War. As a navy pilot, he flew 78 combat missions. He was shot down once and received three medals for his military service. In 1952 he returned to his studies and completed his BSc at Purdue and an MSc in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California.
In 1955 he became a civilian research pilot at the Lewis research centre of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (Naca), the forerunner of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). Later that year, he transferred to Naca’s high-speed flight station (today, Nasa’s Dryden flight research centre) at Edwards Air Force Base in California as an aeronautical research scientist, and then as a pilot. He was a test pilot on many pioneering high-speed aircraft, including the 4,000mph X-15. He flew over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.
Armstrong was engaged in both piloting and engineering aspects of the X-15 programme from its inception. He completed the first flight in the aircraft equipped with a new self-adaptive flight control system and made seven flights in the rocket plane. In 1962 he was of the nine test pilots chosen by Nasa for its second astronaut-training programme.
Here’s a round-up of some of the reactions from the Twitterverse — :
A flash of some of the reactions as the space community reacts to news of Armstrong’s death
Armstrong’s reticence to make public appearances or give interviews means that, for many Americans, their sole memory of Armstrong was his trip to the moon. On a related note, it also made his autograph one of the most valuable in the memorabilia market, ahead of Queen Elizabeth II, Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali. In 2010, our sister publication Air and Space‘s Mike Klesius reported:
According to his biography, [Armstrong] signed anything he was asked to for the first fifteen or so years after the moon landing. Then, dealers of collectibles began misrepresenting themselves as school teachers or children, asking for signed photos by mail. By 1993, Armstrong saw that forgeries of his signature were being sold on the Internet, and stopped giving his autograph, advice that Charles Lindbergh had given him in September 1969 at a banquet of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Nonetheless, Armstrong’s autograph, according to Paul Fraser Collectibles of the United Kingdom, is the most valuable in the world, and fetches more than $7,500 these days
In 2010, Owen Edwards wrote in Smithsonian about the model of the Eagle lunar lander, on view at the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall:
Today, visitors to the Apollo exhibition witness an artifact that looks—with a little help from artful curators—much as Eagle looked when it made that giant leap 40 years ago. When Buzz Aldrin radioed back to us riveted earthlings that “this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown,” he was talking about the overall mission. But he might as easily have been referring to the ungainly marvel that made it possible.
This weekend, the lander module, the Apollo to the Moon gallery and the Apollo 11 capsule would be a good place to start to pay tribute to the American icon.