Guide To The National Air and Space Museum
Since opening in 1976 at its present location on the Mall, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution has educated and inspired over 311 million visitors. The acclaimed facility, dedicated to the history of flight and space exploration, is the second most visited museum in the country and the fifth most visited in the world. Over 161,000 square feet of exhibition space houses 21 galleries that display the world’s largest collection of aviation and space-related artifacts, including an actual moon rock, which visitors are allowed to touch. Formed as the National Air Museum in 1946 by an act of Congress, the museum’s collection of more than 60,000 pieces includes Chinese Imperial kites that were part of the 1876 Centennial Exposition.
The exhibits display either the original history-setting aircraft or a backup to the original. Rare and historic aircraft on display include the 1903 Wright Brothers’ Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis flown by Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 5B Vega as well as the X-1 and Columbia, the Apollo 11 Command Module. The command module is the only part of the lunar mission spacecraft to return to Earth. The X-1 was the first jet to break the sound barrier. NASA plans to display the International Cometary Explorer at the Smithsonian should the space agency ever recover the craft from its solar orbit. In addition to the pioneers and milestones in aviation, galleries commemorate the development of military aircraft, commercial air travel and space exploration. You can learn how aircraft fly through the air and in space. View the astronomical tools that scientists use to explore and better understand the universe. Fly a flight simulator and tour a model of the Skylab Orbital workshop.
The Air and Space Museum has an IMAX Theater, a public observatory and a planetarium where movies and presentations make flight and space travel come to life. The museum conducts daily tours and offers educational events for children and adults. Younger children will enjoy story times and science demonstrations. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located near Dulles International Airport. Opening in 2003, the 760,000-square-foot facility houses aircraft that are too large to exhibit inside the main museum building. Aircraft on display include the Space Shuttle Discovery, an Air France Concorde, an SR-71 Blackbird and the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb. The Air and Space Museum is near the Museums of Natural History and the American Indian as well as the National Gallery of Art and the United States Botanic Garden.
The DC Ducks Tour passes the Air and Space Museum exhibition hall on the National Mall while en route to the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. You will learn new facts and the history of the Air and Space Museum during the enjoyable 90-minute fully narrated Washington DC Tour.