National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., also known as NASM, is the most important museum in the world dedicated to aviation and human space flight and, with over 7 million visitors in 2018, the most popular museum in the United States.
History and building
The NASM, part of the Smithsonian Institution, is located on the National Mall, close to other major cultural centers and museums.
Opened to the public in 1976, the National Air and Space Museum is housed in an imposing stone-and-glass building designed by American architectural firm HOK.
A major renovation of the museum and of its galleries, scheduled for completion in 2019, is currently ongoing.
Exterior view of the National Air and Space Museum on Independence Avenue, Washington D.C. Photo Tim Evanson.
Collection and galleries
The museum displays an outstanding permanent collection presenting aircraft, spacecraft, technical artifacts, models, historical documents, photographs, films, videos, and multimedia installations.
The collection comprises over 60,000 pieces; objects on display include the Wright Flyer, the first actual aircraft ever made, Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of Saint Louis, a Messerschmitt Me 262, a Japanese Zero fighter, the Apollo 11 Command Module, a touchable lunar rock, a Saturn V engine, the X-15 rocket aircraft, a Voyager spacecraft, along with an impressive ensemble of fascinating technical and scientific exhibits.
The permanent exhibition of the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC is divided into 22 thematic and chronological galleries.
Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall
America by Air
Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Golden Age of Flight
Southwest Airlines Welcome Center
How Things Fly
Looking at Earth
Explore the Universe
Lunar Exploration Vehicles
Moving Beyond Earth
World War II Aviation
Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air
Exploring the Planets
Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery
The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age
Apollo to the Moon
Time and Navigation
The museum’s permanent exhibition also includes flight simulators, a telescope, a planetarium, and an IMAX cinema.
The entrance hall of the National Air and Space Museum. Photo m01229
Program of events
The program of events and activities of the NASM comprises temporary exhibitions, guided tours, science demonstrations, conferences, and workshops for families, schools, teens, and kids.
The National Air and Space Museum building, fully accessible to people with physical disabilities, also contains a gift store and four cafe-restaurants.
Also part of the NASM, the Udvar-Hazy Center is a museum located near the Washington Dulles airport in Chantilly, Virginia, presenting large-scale aircraft and spaceships which, due to their size, are difficult to accommodate in the building in Washington.
The Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” used by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins during their 1969 lunar landing mission. Photo Tony Hisgett.
The Bell X-1 “Glamorous Glennis”; in 1947, piloted by Charles “Chuck” Yeager, it was the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound (1,127 kilometers / 700 miles per hour). Photo Johnny Comstedt.
The North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft; in 1959, it reached a speed of Mach 6.72 (4,534 mph) and an altitude of 354,200 feet (over 67 miles), thus becoming the first manned vehicle to fly into outer space. Photo Peter Miller.
Cover image by NCinDC.
Until June 8, 2015, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum hosts the exhibition Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity
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