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One of DC's top attractions
Opened in 1976, the National Air & Space Museum is a top attraction. Even the slump after 9/11 barely scathed it, it registers more than 9 million visitors a year. The imposing Tennessee marble modernist block incorporates three skylit, double-height galleries housing missiles, and aircraft.
In the central Milestones of Flight hall, towering US Pershing-II and Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles stand next to the popular moon rock station, where visitors can stroke a lunar sample acquired on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The 1903 Wright Flyer – the first piloted craft to maintain controlled, sustained flight and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis are both suspended here.
Permanent exhibitions in the museum detail the history of jet aviation and satellite communications. Updates acknowledge contemporary information technology, but most of the collection’s low-tech presentation maintains the quaint optimism of the early space age. A bevy of hands-on exhibits appeal to children, who line up to pilot a full-size Cessna aircraft in the How Things Fly exhibit or to walk through the research lab in the Skylab Space Station.
The Albert Einstein Planetarium offers half-hour multimedia presentations about stars and outer space; the Langley Theater shows IMAX films on air and space flight. As you can tell, there is more here to see and do than can easily be written about, let alone seen in one day.
National Air and Space Museum
601 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC , Washington
Phone: 1-202 633 1000
Open Hours: Sept-May 10am-5.30pm daily. June-Aug 9am-5.30pm daily