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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum displays the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It was established in 1946 and opened its main building in 1976. The museum contains historical objects such as the Apollo 11 module, the Friendship 7 capsule, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, and the Wright brothers’ plane.

The main building of the National Air and Space Museum is on the National Mall near L’Enfant Plaza.  The Museum also operates an annex at Dulles International Airport, which opened in 2003 and itself encompasses 760,000 square feet (71,000 m2).

Highlights of the National Air and Space Museum

A Tour of the National Air and Space Museum

  • The Spirit of St. Louis
    • The Spirit of St. Louis is the specially built, single-engine, a single-seat airplane that was flown by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, in a record-breaking first-ever first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. The Spirit of St. Louis flew a distance of approximately 3,600 miles (5,800 km) in just over 33 hours to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris.

  • Apollo 11 Command Module
    • Apollo 11 was the spaceflight mission that landed the first two humans on the Moon. Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin, landed the lunar module Eagle on the mid in mid-1969. After a successful Moon mission, the Apollo 11 Command Module called Columbia was used by the astronauts to return to earth by splashing into the Pacific Ocean to be collected by the recovery ship, USS Hornet.

  • The Wright Flyer
    • The Wright Flyer was the first successful heavier-than-air powered aircraft. It was designed and built by the Wright brothers, and they flew it four times in 1903. The flight of this plane marks the beginning of the “pioneer era” of aviation. The Flyer was based on the Wrights’ experiments in testing gliders at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, U.S., between 1900 and 1902. The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, built the aircraft in 1903 using giant spruce wood. They design a new engine, effectively a crude gasoline engine. A sprocket chain drive, borrowing from bicycle technology, powered the twin propellers, which were also made by hand.

  • Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis
    • Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis achieved the first manned supersonic flight in 1947. Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager piloted USAF aircraft #46-062, nicknamed Glamorous Glennis for his wife. The airplane was drop-launched from the bomb bay of a modified B-29 Superfortress bomber and reached Mach 1.06 or 700 miles per hour (1,100 km/h). Following burnout of the engine, the plane glided to a landing on the dry lake bed.

  • SpaceShipOne
    • SpaceShipOne completed the first manned private spaceflight in 2004 and won the US$10 million Ansari X Prize. Almost one-hundredth years after the Wright Brothers’ historic first powered flight. As part of this project, the Mojave Air and Space Port was the first commercial spaceport licensed in the United States. And the first pilot of SpaceShipOne became the first licensed U.S. commercial astronaut.

  • Apollo Lunar Module
    • The Apollo Lunar Module was the landing portion of the Apollo spacecraft built for the Apollo program. Designed to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface and then back to the Command Module. It consisted of an ascent stage and descent stage and was ferried to lunar orbit by its companion Command Module. After completing its mission, the Lunar Module was discarded into space. The Lunar Module was the first manned spacecraft crewed vehicle to land on the Moon.

  • Skylab 4 Apollo Command Module
    • This Skylab 4 Apollo Command Module served as the cabin for going to and from Skylab, the first U.S. space station. Skylab 4, the last of the Skylab missions and was launched in 1973 with this Command Module and the three-person crew, who spent 84 days in orbit.

  • Airbus A320 Simulated Cockpit
    • The Airbus A320 Simulated Cockpit reflects the modern “glass cockpit”, which is centered around computer monitors that show flight, engine and all other required aircraft data on easily understood and configured displays. A set of six computer monitors have replaced hundred of gauges and switches, significantly reducing cockpit complexity. This glass cockpit was introduced in 1982 and is now the industry standard.

National Air and Space Museum

  • Name:                National Air and Space Museum
  • City:                   Washington, D.C.
  • Country:            United States
  • Established:      1946
  • Type:                 Air & Space Museum
  • Address:            600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
  • Public transit Access: L’Enfant Plaza

National Air and Space Museum Map

Explore Museums in Washington, D.C.

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“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” 
Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit: 1) By xiquinhosilva (02684-National-Air-and-Space-Museum) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

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