by Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
1/16/2013 - 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
As a major player in the evolution of precise time, Schriever was given
an opportunity to provide historical data for the "Time and Navigation"
"[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 World War II 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
"[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, an 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.