Blue Line Green Line Orange Line Yellow Line
Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There
Time and Navigation, Gallery 213, 2nd Floor, East Wing
If you want to know where you are, you need an accurate clock. This surprising connection between time and space has been crucial for centuries. About 250 years ago, sailors first used accurate clocks to navigate the oceans. Today we locate ourselves on the globe with synchronized clocks in orbiting satellites. Among the many challenges facing navigation from then to now, one stands out: keeping accurate time. Featuring 144 objects, this exhibition explores how revolutions in timekeeping over three centuries have influenced how we find our way. The exhibition is organized into the following five sections:
- Navigating at Sea is an immersive environment that suggests a walk through a 19th-century sailing vessel.
- Navigating in the Air relates how air navigators struggled with greater speeds, worse weather, and more cramped conditions than their sea-going predecessors.
- Navigating in Space traces how teams of talented engineers invented the new science of space navigation using star sightings, precise timing, and radio communications.
- Inventing Satellite Navigation describes how traveling in space inspired plans to navigate from space.
- Navigation for Everyone tells the stories of real people -- a fireman, a farmer, and a student -- who use modern navigation technology in their everyday lives and addresses what might come next.
Presented in collaboration with the National Museum of American History.
Pioneers of Flight, Barron Hilton
Gallery 208, 2nd Floor, Center
This renovated exhibition highlights the growth of aviation and rocketry during the 1920s and 30s and features famous "firsts" and record setters. It has been updated with new research and includes a broader selection of artifacts. The individuals featured were pioneering men and women who pushed the existing technological limits of flight and broke both physical and psychological barriers to flight. The exhibition features sections on "Military Aviation," "Civilian Aviation," "Black Wings," and "Rocket Pioneers." To engage children, the gallery features hands-on activities, as well as toys, books, and childhood memorabilia of the era in an area entitled "Don's Air Service."
- Anne Lindbergh's telegraph key
- Jimmy Doolittle's "blind flight" instruments
- Tuskegee Airman Chauncey Spencer's flight suit
- the "Hoopskirt" rocket test stand
- Lindbergh memorabilia
- gifts received by the crew of the Douglas World Cruiser
- kiosk featuring archival film clips
Aircraft on view include:
- Wright EX Vin Fiz biplane: flown by Cal Rogers as the first pilot to make a transcontinental flight in fewer than 30 days, 1911
- Fokker T-2: first nonstop U.S. transcontinental flight, 1923
- Douglas World Cruiser Chicago: first around-the-world flight, 1924
- Lockheed 5B Vega: flown by Amelia Earhart in the first solo flight across the Atlantic by a woman, 1932
- Lockheed 8 Sirius: flown by the Lindberghs on airline-route mapping flights, 1930s (see Nov. 2006 Smithsonian magazine, pp. 42-43)
- Curtiss R3C-2 Racer
- The gondola from the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom, the first balloon to carry one person -- Steve Fossett -- nonstop around the world
- 1/4-scale model of the Montgolfier balloon: 1st manned aerial vehicle, 1783
Related books are available for sale in the Museum Store.
Moving Beyond Earth
Gallery 113, 1st Floor, East Wing
This exhibition explores the achievements and challenges of human spaceflight in the United States during the space shuttle and space station era through artifacts, immersive experiences, and interactive computer stations. Highlights include:
- a space shuttle main engine and middeck crew cabin outfitted for flight
- an autonomous robot and flown-in-space science experiment apparatus
- astronaut clothing and crew equipment
- shuttle toys and space memorabilia
- a 12-foot-tall space-shuttle model and other launch-vehicle models
- a presentation center for live events, broadcasts, and webcasts
America by Air
Gallery 102, 1st Floor, West Wing
How did the first commercial airline companies get off the ground? How has the experience of air travel changed over the past century? How will the politics of today affect the way we fly tomorrow? These are some of the issues in the development of commercial air transport this gallery explores, while expanding on the history of air transportation from only a few years after the invention of powered flight to the commercial challenges and technical sophistication of the 21st-century jet age. Featuring seven complete airplanes, engines, and other objects, this exhibition focuses on the following time periods:
- The Early Years, 1914-1927
- Airline Expansion and Innovation, 1927-1941, featuring a Ford Tri-Motor and a Douglas DC-3, the most successful airliner of the 1930s.
- The Heyday of Propeller Airliners, 1941-1958, featuring a Douglas DC-7, the first airliner to provide nonstop coast-to-coast service.
- The Jet Age, 1958-Today, featuring the forward fuselage section of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Note: Visitors can enter from the second floor to view the cockpit.
See online activities.
The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age
Gallery 209, 2nd Floor, East Wing
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, this exhibition presents the Wrights' technical achievements and examines the cultural impact of early powered flight. The centerpiece of the gallery is the original 1903 Wright Flyer, displayed on the ground for the first time since the Smithsonian acquired it in 1948. Also on view are 250 photographs and 150 other artifacts, including the stop watch used to time the first powered flights, a Wright wind tunnel test instrument used in unlocking the secrets of aerodynamics, a reproduction of the Wright Brothers' 1899 experimental kite, and full-size reproductions of their 1900 and 1902 experimental gliders.
Hands-on stations and interactive computer stations: both provide an understanding of flight
Free Family Guide
Companion publication by curators Tom Crouch and Peter Jakab, $35 (cloth)
Voyage - A Journey Through Our Solar System
Outdoors, south side of Jefferson Dr. between Air & Space Museum and the Castle
In this outdoor exhibition, our solar system is presented at one ten-billionth actual size through 13 units -- one each for the 9 planets, the Sun, asteroids and comets, and 2 introductory units -- that stretch 650 yards from the Air & Space Museum to the Smithsonian Castle. The model brings to life the great distances between the planets, illustrates their unique characteristics, and reveals the Earth's place in our solar system and the Sun's place among the stars. The exhibition was developed by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, NASA, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Free educational guide: Available at information desks at the Castle and the Air and Space Museum
Explore the Universe
Gallery 111, 1st Floor, East Wing
Through objects, interactives, and videos, this exhibition explains what scientists think our universe is like, how the present scientific view of the universe came to be, how it is being shaped today, and what mysteries remain. With the development of each new tool to explore the universe -- telescopes, photography, spectroscopy -- our understanding of the universe changed dramatically. Despite these new advances, many of our questions remain unanswered: What is the universe? How big is it? How old is it? How did it begin? A changing section on what's new in our exploration of the universe will keep the exhibition up to date and attempt to answer these questions.
- Exploring the Universe with the Naked Eye examines our first, basic understanding of the universe. Featured artifacts include Islamic astrolabes and a replica of the armillary sphere and portable mural quadrant used by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.
- Exploring the Universe with the Telescope illustrates how the telescope revolutionized the way we see the universe. Featured artifacts include the telescope tube through which William Herschel discovered thousands of nebulae and star clusters, leading him to postulate that other galaxies exist beyond our Milky Way.
- Exploring the Universe with Photography shows how photographs changed the way astronomers recorded the universe. Featured artifacts include the camera used by Edwin Hubble in discovering other galaxies.
- Exploring the Universe with Spectroscopy demonstrates how the composition of light reveals histories within the universe. Featured artifacts include an early spectrograph from the late 1800s and a 1912 letter from Albert Einstein discussing the warping of space by matter.
- Exploring the Universe in the Digital Age explains how digital detectors and processors have enhanced the power of the earlier tools. Featured artifacts include the "Z machine" that gathered data for the first 3-D map of the universe.
Related book: Beyond the Earth, $40 (cloth)
Gallery 114, 1st Floor, East Wing
This major exhibition traces the competition in space between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union from its origins in the 1950s to the recent international cooperation. Objects include a Soyuz TM-10 spacecraft, a Kosmos 1443 "Merkur" spacecraft, and a space suit made for the never-accomplished mission to land a Russian on the Moon. The exhibition is divided into the following sections:
- Military Origins of the Space Race examines the rivalry to develop rockets powerful enough to send thermo-nuclear warheads across the globe.
- Secret Eyes in Space reveals long-secret reconnaissance projects and includes the recently declassified "Corona" spy satellite camera.
- Racing to the Moon looks at the public accomplishments of both countries and includes the Soviet "Krechet" lunar space suit and the Apollo space suit.
- Exploring the Moon looks at the equipment developed to transmit pictures of the lunar surface to Earth, to perform chemical analyses of the soil, and to do other scientific experiments and includes an Apollo Lunar Landing Module.
- A Permanent Presence in Space looks at the efforts of both countries to establish permanent space stations for continued scientific discovery and the beginning of an era of cooperation in space.
- Fifty Years of Human Spaceflight examines how the Soviet Union and the United States raced to launch the first humans into space in 1961, during the Cold War.
- Models of the Space Shuttle
How Things Fly
Gallery 109, 1st Floor, East Wing
This interactive gallery explains the basic principles of air and space flight through hands-on activities. The gallery features a Cessna 150, a section of a Boeing 757 fuselage, a model of the International Space Station, and more than 50 interactives. The exhibition is divided into 7 sections:
- The Basics: Gravity and Air demonstrates the properties of gravity and air with a barometer that slides from floor to ceiling and an 11-foot, radio-controlled blimp overhead.
- Winging It uses a series of wind tunnels to demonstrate the forces of lift that lift an aircraft off the ground. "Explainers" are on hand to perform demonstrations.
- Faster Than Sound: High-Speed Flight demonstrates how aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound through the use of a supersonic wind tunnel.
- Getting Aloft: Thrust explores propellers, jets, and rockets that provide thrust, the forward motion needed to sustain lift and counter drag.
- Gravity and No Air: Flight in Space uses computer interactives and a "gravity well" to demonstrate how a spacecraft in orbit is affected by gravity.
- Staying Aloft: Stability and Control explains "attitude" (orientation) using a rotating platform, a model Cessna 150 in an airstream, and a real Cessna 150 with operable rudder, ailerons, and elevator.
- The Makings of a Flying Machine: Structure and Materials explains how materials and structure shape the way air and space craft look and perform, explores the advantages and disadvantages of different materials used, and includes a cut-away Cessna 150.
An amphitheater-style area features "Explainers" performing demonstrations. "Forces of Flight" demonstrations, paper airplane contests, "Air and Space Touchables" demonstrations, and videos rotate throughout the day.
A Visitor Resource Center is filled with science activities, video programs, interactive computer programs, children's literature, and other reference materials related to flight sciences.
Legend, Memory, and the Great War in the Air (WWI Aviation)
Gallery 206, 2nd Floor, West Wing
This gallery features the emergence of air power in World War I and reexamines the reality and the romantic image of this war.
- Voisin VIII: early type of night bomber, 1915
- SPAD XIII: French fighter aircraft also used by Americans
- Fokker D.VII: considered the best German fighter aircraft of WWI
- Albatros D.Va: German fighter aircraft that flew on all fronts during WWI
- Pfalz D.XII: built to replace the outdated Albatros D.Va
- Sopwith Snipe: British aircraft considered one of the best all-around single-seat fighters, although it came quite late in the war
- German factory scene: WWI mass-production techniques, with original equipment
- A model of the Spruce Goose and several artifacts related to its construction (outside the gallery)
Small theater with video presentations
Voyager: Around the World without a Pit Stop
Independence Ave. Lobby (South Lobby), Gallery 108, 1st Floor
This exhibit features the Voyager, the first aircraft to fly around the world without landing or refueling. The flight was made by pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager December 14-23, 1986.
The Teledyne engine used to propel the aircraft is included, as well as a video showing the building of the plane and its test flights. The plane was designed by Burt Rutan.
The exhibit also presents the history of round-the-world flights and the evolution of aircraft construction techniques, including a sample of the Voyager's composite material.
Looking at Earth
Gallery 110, 1st Floor, East Wing
This gallery traces the development of technology for viewing Earth from balloons, aircraft, and spacecraft. The quest for ever-higher, ever-clearer images of the Earth is reflected in photographs and spacecraft images from a few feet to 7.5 million miles away. Some photographs are mural-size.
- de Havilland DH-4: an American World War I aircraft used extensively for mapping and surveying in the 1920s
- Lockheed U-2C: key U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance jet developed in 1954-55 during the Cold War era, with flight suit and typical camera, dating from the 1950s to the present
- Earth observation satellites: prototypes of TIROS, the world's first weather satellite, built in 1960; ITOS weather satellite (engineering test model), 1970s; GOES geostationary satellite (full-scale model), 1975 to the present; and models of other satellites
- Landsat image of your state: interactive touchscreen display showing orbital views of the 50 states. Visitors to the gallery can also "punch in" an image of their hometown area as seen by a Landsat satellite
The Golden Age of Flight
Gallery 105, 1st Floor, West Wing
This gallery covers the years between the World Wars (1919-1939) but focuses on the period shortly after Lindbergh's flight in 1927 through 1939. Described as "golden" because of many advances in aviation technology, record-making flights, and intense interest by the public in aviation events, the era produced many of today's legendary aviation heroes. Aircraft and engines, newsreel coverage of aviation events, photographs, models and reproductions, and newspaper headlines are included. The opening of this exhibition coincided with the 60th anniversary of the takeoff of the Douglas World Cruisers, a major event during the Golden Age.
- Wittman Buster: 1947 air racer that won the most races in aviation history
- Beechcraft Staggerwing: popular general aviation aircraft of the 1930s
- Northrop Gamma Polar Star: first transantarctic flight, 1935
- Curtiss Robin Ole Miss: set endurance record of 27 days over Meridian, Mississippi, in 1935
- a reproduction of the Gee Bee Z
- the Golden Age Theater, featuring film footage of famed pilot Jimmy Doolitle
Gallery 106, 1st Floor, West Wing
This gallery illustrates the first 40 years of jet aviation (1939-1979), including the evolution of commercial and military jet aircraft.
Aircraft on display include:
- Messerschmitt Me 262: world's 1st operational jet fighter
- Lockheed XP-80 Shooting Star Lulu Belle: world's 1st operational carrier jet fighter
- McDonnell FH-1 Phantom
Also on view is a 25' by 70' mural of 27 jet aircraft by Keith Ferris. Theater with numerous brief film clips
Theater with numerous brief film clips
Early Flight, The Samuel P. Langley Gallery of
Gallery 107, 1st Floor, West Wing
This re-created indoor aeronautical exhibition (circa 1913) highlights the early history of the airplane from antiquity through the first decade of powered flight. Period furnishings, talking mannequins, and ragtime music combine to bring back the special ambience of the time.
- Wright 1909 Military Flyer: the world's 1st military airplane
- Lilienthal glider: glider that inspired Wilbur and Orville Wright, 1894
- 1912 Curtiss Pusher
- 1914 Bleriot XI monoplane
- Ecker Flying Boat:
Theater with video presentation
Apollo to the Moon
Gallery 210, 2nd Floor, East Wing
This gallery traces NASA's manned space program beginning with Project Mercury's Freedom 7 (5/5/61); then the Gemini Project (1965-66); followed by the Apollo Program (1967-1972), with Apollo 17 as the last manned exploration of the moon.
- Space flight time line, with photos of participating astronauts
- Items and equipment used by astronauts during the Apollo Project
- Space suits worn by Apollo astronauts on the moon
- Information about the moon and selected lunar scenes showing Lunar Rover and astronauts at work
- Saturn Booster -- S-1C rocket propulsion system
- Lunar Samples: 4 types of lunar soils and rocks
- Apollo 16 telescope backup; the original, designed by George Carruthers, is on the moon
Lunar Exploration Vehicles
Gallery 112, 1st Floor, East Wing
This gallery highlights NASA lunar surface exploration.
- Apollo Lunar Module: a duplicate of the spacecraft that carried astronauts to the surface of the moon in the Apollo Program, late 1960s and early 1970s
- Surveyor Spacecraft: soft-landed on the moon to study lunar soil composition and physical properties of the lunar surface, 1966-68
- Lunar Orbital Spacecraft: circled the moon to perform mapping of the entire lunar surface, 1966-67
- Ranger: provided the first closeup photographs of the lunar surface, 1962-65
- Clementine: designed for a two-month mapping mission in orbit around the moon in 1994. Clementine provided answers to many of the questions about the moon that remained from the Apollo era.
Milestones of Flight
Gallery 100, 1st Floor, Center
This gallery features famous airplanes and spacecraft that exemplify the major achievements in the history of flight.
- Mercury Friendship 7: the first manned orbiting flight, carrying John Glenn, Feb. 20, 1962
- Gemini IV: the first U.S. space walk by Edward H. White II, June 3-7, 1965
- Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia: 1st manned lunar landing, 1969, carrying Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins
- Touchable Moon Rock: a "gem" from the lunar surface, collected by Apollo astronauts
- Goddard Rockets: a full-scale model of the world's 1st liquid propellant rocket, flown on March 16, 1926, and a large rocket constructed in 1941 by Robert Goddard, father of American rocketry
- Bell XS-1 (X-1) Glamorous Glennis: 1st manned flight faster than the speed of sound, flown by Chuck Yeager, Oct. 14, 1947
- Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis: Lindbergh's plane for 1st solo trans-atlantic non-stop flight 1927
- Explorer I: back-up model of 1st U.S. satellite to orbit the earth, 1958
- Sputnik I: Russian replica of 1st artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, 1957
- North American X-15: 1st winged, manned aircraft to exceed 6 times the speed of sound and the 1st airplane to explore the fringes of space, 1967
- Mariner 2: model of 1st spacecraft to study another planet when it flew by Venus, launched Dec. 14, 1962
- Pioneer 10 (prototype): 1st spacecraft to fly by Jupiter and 1st aircraft to venture beyond the planets, launched March 3, 1972
- Viking Lander: an unmanned proof test capsule used in ground tests before and during the Viking flights to Mars in 1976
- Bell XP-59A Airacomet (#1 of 3): 1st American turbojet aircraft, direct ancestor to all American jet aircraft, flown by Robert M. Stanley, Oct. 1, 1942
- Breitling Orbiter 3 Balloon Gondola: 1st balloon to fly around the world nonstop in 1999
- SpaceShipOne: 1st privately built and operated vehicle to reach space
Gallery 203, 2nd Floor, West Wing
The focus of this gallery is overwater flight, including aircraft carrier operations from 1911 to the present.
- Carrier Hangar Deck for All Times: displays major aircraft from different periods in the history of sea-air
- Boeing F4B-4 biplane: a shipboard fighter used from 1932 to 1937
- Douglas SBD Dauntless: the principle carrier-based bomber used throughout most of WWII
- Grumman FM-1 Wildcat: the first-line Navy fighter and the start of WWII
- Douglas A-4 Skyhawk: the first-line naval attack aircraft of the 1950s and 1960s
- Re-creation of the bridge of an aircraft carrier where visitors can step aboard the USS Smithsonian to watch simulated aircraft take off and land
- Ship's Museum presents the history of flight over water
World War II Aviation
Gallery 205, 2nd Floor, West Wing
This gallery highlights land-based aviation during World War II and features fighter aircraft from each of 5 countries.
- North American P-51D Mustang: an outstanding fighter plane used in every theater of war
- Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero: maneuverability and range were excellent; the Japanese navy used it in almost every action throughout the war
- Martin B-26 Flak Bait (nose only): flew the most missions of any American bomber in Europe
- Supermarine Spitfire Mark VII: the legendary British fighter used to defeat the Germans in the Battle of Britain, along with the Hurricane
- Messerschmitt Bf 109G: the principle Luftwaffe fighter; major opponent of the Spitfires and American bombers
- Macchi C.202 Folgore: the most successful Italian fighter to see extensive service; used in the African campaign and in Italy and Russia
Outdoor Sculptures: Air and Space Museum
Near Jefferson Drive and Independence Avenue entrances
• Ad Astra sculpture by Richard Lippold, is located near the museum's entrance at Jefferson Drive.
• Continuum -- cast bronze sculpture (1976) by Charles O. Perry, is located at the museum's entrance at 6th and Independence Avenue.
• Delta Solar sculpture by Alejandro Otero, is located on the west side of the museum near 7th Street; it was a gift from the Venezuelan government.
Gallery 108, 1st Floor
The Welcome Center features the information desk and the following:
- Robert T. McCall Mural: The Space Mural -- A Cosmic View by Robert T. McCall portrays the past, present, and future of the universe with a depiction of the Big Bang, an Apollo astronaut on the Moon, and a lunar rover and second astronaut.
- Eric Sloane Mural: Earth Flight Environment by Eric Sloane illustrates different weather phenomena in our atmosphere -- lightening, rain, a rainbow -- and a variety of cloud forms as a single airplane streaks across the sky.
- Trophy Case featuring the following objects:
- The Aero Club Trophy for Aviation Excellence, along with a list of winners.
- The NASM Trophy for extraordinary achievements in aerospace.
- A model of Ascent by John Safer, a 65-foot sculpture installed at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
- Voyager: Around the World Without a Pit Stop
For details see separate entry.
Exploring the Planets
Gallery 207, 2nd Floor, West Wing
This exhibition highlights the history and achievements of planetary exploration, both Earth-based and by spacecraft.
- Voyager: full-scale replica of the spacecraft that explored Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the 1970s and 1980s
- A Piece of Mars? A meteorite fragment discovered in Antarctica in 1979 and thought to be from Mars (placed on view 6/16/1990)
- Surveyor 3 television camera: retrieved from the surface of the Moon by the Apollo 12 astronauts
- Mars Exploration Rover
U.S.S. Starship Enterprise Model
Museum Store, Lower Level
This model of the starship Enterprise was used in the filming of the Star Trek TV show, which ran from 1966 to 1969. It is mostly made of poplar wood and vacu-formed plastic. Sheet metal tubes were used for the two engine housings or nacelles.