During our trip to DC, one of our must-go places was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum! Few of you know that Matt and I both have engineering degrees – mine aerospace, his biomedical. Regardless, we are both huge space history buffs (I’m also into aviation history) so we enjoy any opportunity we get to completely nerd out in a museum for a day.
It was a sweltering July day, and we couldn’t wait to get inside and feel the first blast of air-conditioning on our sunburned skin.
My favorite exhibits at Air & Space museums include the actual capsules from the early space program. This is a peek inside of the 2-man capsule of Gemini IV.
The exterior of the Gemini IV capsule. Can you imagine being crammed inside of here, fastened to the top of a Titan II rocket, and shot into space? Gemini IV was the first space flight to last for multiple days. Ed White, who was later killed in the Apollo 1 launchpad fire, was the first man to complete a space walk on this mission.
The entrance of the museum has a ton of exhibits.. both on the floor and hanging from the ceiling.
The Bell X-1 – the aircraft Chuck Yeager used to be the first man to break the sound barrier on October 14th, 1947.
“Hey, you got any Beeman’s?”
“Yeah, I think I got me a stick”
“Loan me some, will ya? I’ll pay you back later”
Sorry.. a little flashback from The Right Stuff. All of my fellow space and aviation buffs will recognize that reference, I’m sure!
Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis”, the plane Charles Lindbergh used to complete the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight.
Ah.. I admit I stood here for a minute with my hand on the plexiglass case surrounding this thing. This is the Apollo 11 command module.. the capsule that orbited the moon with CM pilot Michael Collins while Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong descended to take that historic first moonwalk.
There were quite a few walk-in cockpits of both historic and modern day airliners. I really enjoyed the exhibits showing in detail how air transport has changed and evolved over the years.
Probably one of the most famous exhibits at the NASM.. the original Wright Flyer from 1903.. this is the actual craft! The fabric has been replaced for the exhibit, but pieces of the original are also on display.
Another view.. it was a lot bigger than I expected.
Can you see the mannequin? He’s lying on his stomach right in the middle.. you’re looking right at the soles of his feet. That’s how this thing was piloted. Crazy!
Mock-up of a lunar module just outside of the food court. I absolutely adore the story of the design and creation of this amazing little craft. For a slightly Hollywood-ized version, check out episode #5 of From Earth to the Moon which documents the entire process by the amazing scientists at Grumman Aircraft Engineering
We brought our own lunch to avoid eating fast food, but we picked up a couple of drinks and sat in the cafeteria with a view of the Capitol out of the window.
Mock-up of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which was the last mission in the Apollo program. This mission is so important because it marks a brief pause in the Cold War while US astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts docked their craft, opened up the hatches, and reached through for a friendly handshake. I still get a little teary when I see the picture. Wanna see?
I know, it’s a little blurry.. but it’s what it represents, man.
An engine bell of the Saturn V rocket. If you ever get a chance to see the full rocket in person (I recommend the exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center) it will impress the pants off of you. It’s massively huge (yes, and massively expensive and wasteful.. but it’s still pretty darn cool)
Donation box near the entrance.. we thought the different currencies all mixed in together was pretty neat.
Have you ever been to the Smithsonian Air & Space musem? Tell us about it in a comment below!