National Air & Space Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sararevell on April 6, 2008

Opened in 1976, the National Mall Building reveals only a fraction of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s collection. To see the other 90% you need to venture out to Washington Dulles Airport and tour the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. I would hardly classify myself as an aviation fanatic but even I was impressed by this museum’s exciting mix of air and spacecraft.

Our main reason for visiting was to view the temporary exhibition of the 150 objects from the National Museum of American History on view whilst that museum undergoes renovation. We shuffled along, viewing a variety of entertaining items ranging from Kermit the Frog and Muhammed Ali’s boxing gloves to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Edison’s light bulb.

We then ventured next door to Gallery 210 and the "Apollo to the Moon" exhibition where the ingenious display of an F-1 engine is mirrored in a way to show the configuration of the actual five engines that sat at the base of the Saturn 5 rocket. The Saturn 5 was the largest rocket in the world and the F-1 was the most powerful rocket engine, enabling the rocket to reach speeds of 6,000 miles per hour shortly after launch.

On to the next gallery and we toured the striking Wright Brothers exhibition. Boards and illustrative displays tell of their family life and lead on to their work in the early 1900s that led to the invention of the first powered airplane. In the centre of the gallery is their masterpiece, the 1903 Wright Flyer. The exhibition then continues, looking at the fast development of flight in the decade that followed.

In the main galleries, planes and spacecrafts are impossibly suspended overhead, including the Spirit of St. Louis, the aircraft piloted by Charles A. Lindbergh in 1927 from New York to Paris in the first solo transatlantic flight.

The National Air and Space Museum at the National Mall could easily occupy a full day and we barely scratched the surface, sadly missing out on many galleries including World War Two aviation, Flight Simulators and the Planetarium. (I can’t imagine how much time you would need at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center though!) It also seemed to cater well to children although I was sad to see that they’ve allowed a McDonald’s branch a berth in their food court on the first floor.

Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
Independence Avenue At 4th Street SW
Washington, DC

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