Continuing the adventure from DC… The Smithsonian has these two museums that are really similar, and I have always thought that I visited the one in DC, but turns out, I visited its twin in Virginia. Hence, it’s actually my first time seeing the…
National Air and Space Museum, located in Washington, D.C.
Another museum belonging to the Smithsonian Institution, thus free admission. (Yay!) Since we went during the summer, we were able to take advantage of the extended hours and stayed till they closed at 7:30 (regular closing is at 5:30). We had about two hours to explore the two floors of of the museum. The museum is well laid out, with individually themed galleries uniting around the main theme of spacecrafts and air crafts. There are about 20 themed sections that are free to everyone, with an additional 3 sections that require money (the IMAX movie, the planetarium and the flight simulator). Since we only had two hours, we barely had enough time to see all the freebies, thus we didn’t even venture into the paid sections.
The first, and only, section that was geared towards kiddies, was the gallery entitled “How Things Fly”. The gallery was interactive, so there was lots to touch and play with, thus the area was overflowing with smaller children. Next we were “Looking at Earth” through satellite images, so if you enjoy satellite images and the devices used to capture these images, this is your section. For all the space nerds out there, (I am!), we “Explore the universe” through the evolution of telescopes. This section proceeded in chronological order by showing us how our understanding of the universe changes based on what we use to examine the universe. In the beginning, we used only our eyes, thus we believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. With the invention of simple telescopes, we realized that we were wrong, the Earth is not the center, but the sun is the center of the universe. As more complex telescopes were made, we realized that the sun is not at the center of the universe, the universe is actually much bigger than we imagined. Following the exploration of the universe, we saw some very nice model replicas of various space crafts. There was a replica of the Apollo Lunar Module and another of a space shuttle. For those who have ever wondered how astronauts use the bathroom, there’s an answer on display. (I’ve wondered about that.)
As much as I enjoyed the gallery on the universe, my favorite section was the one entitled”Early Flight”. I like the extravagance of these flying vehicles and the science-fiction element that is seen in them. Since the first flying vehicles were just invented in the early 1900s, people didn’t understand all that much about what can fly, and what cannot, so their imagination ran wild. Flying houses, boats, hang gliders, anything that cross the mind was a possibility, and it was exciting to see all this creativity.
Next up, we saw the exhibits on “Jet aviation”, “Golden Age of Flight” and “America By Air”. Let me be honest, I am not being the biggest fan of air crafts, thus I don’t really remember too much about these exhibits. However, there were a lot of various air crafts on display, so air craft enthusiasts will definitely want to pay more attention than I did at these sections.
Reaching the second floor of the museum, we explored exhibits on air crafts used in combat. These exhibits included “Sea-air operations”, World War II aviation” and “Great War In the Air”. Once again, I breezed through these sections because of my own bias, however, a great deal of thought and effort were put into these galleries. When you walk into the “Sea-air operations” gallery, it was actually as if you were walking into an aircraft carrier. In addition, there were some intricate replicas on display. I actually enjoyed the “Great War in the Air” gallery because of the vibrant colors from popular culture during the World War I era. It transports one to the an idealized version of the era.
On to “exploring the planets”, we saw various space craft replicas that were used to explore the solar system. In addition to space crafts, there were details about the planets. (I could go on and on about the planets, but let’s not get side-tracked.) After we saw “Pioneers of flight”, which displayed various air crafts that pushed the boundaries of flying further.
My second favorite exhibit was the one about the “Wright Brothers”. When you walk into the gallery, you are transported to the time of the Wright brothers, with their 1903 Wright Flyer being the centerpiece. The layout of the gallery told the story of the Wright brothers right before my eyes, of how they invented the first airplane.
The last two galleries to be explored were “Apollo to the Moon” and “Time and Navigation”. “Apollo to the Moon” had many artifacts relating to the Apollo mission that took man to the moon. “Time and Navigation” was an interesting gallery detailing the revolution of timekeeping. Unfortunately, little time was spent in these two galleries because our time was running out and my travel buddies really wanted to go spend money at the gift shop.
Two hours is not really enough time to look at everything in detail (especially if your party has the need to buy souvenirs at the gift shop), but that was all the time we spent there. My opinion of the museum is sort of mixed, but leaning more towards the I enjoyed it side. The museum is devoted to air and space crafts, so if that’s your thing, you will love every second of it. However, if you’re similar to me,(I like colorful exhibits), there will be some galleries that you won’t want to leave, and others where you walked through the whole gallery and couldn’t have walk out of there faster. Nevertheless, all the galleries were really well thought out, so definitely give the National Air and Space museum a chance, who knows, you might end up really liking the whole museum (or at the least a few of the galleries).