DC: National Air and Space Museum

My dear blogging friend Kathy of Hometown Tourist and Bridges to London enquired on my last DC post about whether I managed to visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  The answer is a resounding yes!  I would not have missed it for the world. 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum National Air and Space Museum

I think out of all my time in the United States, this was the time when I missed Stephen the most as I think he would have really liked it here.  I’m not trying to gloat but it was kind of awesome.

I’m trying to piece together my memories, photographs and notes so if I make any mistakes here, don’t be shy to jump up and down and correct me.  Here goes…

Click on any of the photos for enlargements

Milestones of Flight

Spirit of St Louis, Spaceship One, Bell X-1

In the corner there you can see the Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis” in which Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight on 21 May 1927. 

SpaceShipOne is centre and was the first privately developed, piloted vehicle to reach space.  The flight took place in 2004 and arced into space but didn’t actually orbit the Earth. 

The gorgeous, retro plane in on the right is the Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis" which was the first aircraft to officially exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flight in 1947.

Space Race

Sputnik One and North American X15

Here you can see a replica of Sputnik 1 which was the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite back in 1957.  The success of the Sputnik programme triggered the Sputnik crisis and launched the Space Race

The sleek and magnificent plane taking up the rest of the photograph is the North American X-15 which is the world’s fastest and highest flying aircraft.  Thirteen X-15 flights went higher than altitudes of 50 miles thus achieving astronaut wings for the pilots and in 1967 Pete Knight achieved a speed of 6.72 mach.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project V-2 Missile and Skylab Orbital Workshop

The Apollo–Soyuz Test Project was the last mission in the Apollo space programme and represented the first joint US and Soviet flight.  Two manned spacecraft left from Florida and Kazakstan respectively in July 1975 and they rendezvoused in orbit.

The V2 Missile was the world’s first ballistic missile (which sort of means it was shot into the air and then subject to the laws of gravity and physics thereafter).  It was also the first manmade object to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight.  In the end though, it was a terrible bomb used toward the end of World War II by the Germans and many prisoners worked to their death to create them in Mittelbau-Dora.  The bombs were mainly used in Antwerp and the Blitz over London.

The history of the Skylab Space Station is fascinating but I won’t bore you with the details.  This is the backup Skylab orbital workshop but it wasn’t actually used because the Skylab programme was abandoned after the first mission to make way for the Shuttle programme.

America by Air

I’ll let most of these magnificent planes speak for themselves. This whole section put me in mind of films like Casablanca or tales of the war and the race to reach the skies. Oh, I can't put it into words but it was a very romantic, retro section.

Ford 5-AT Trimotor and Douglas DC-3

The Ford 5-AT Trimotor (1928) with the glorious Douglas S DC-3 (1936) peeking out from underneath.

America by Air Boeing

The wonderfully retro Boeing 247-D (1934) is at the left of the photo above with the gorgeous Northrop Alpha (1930) peaking out above the nose of the Boeing Jumbo Jet.

Curtiss JN-4D Jenny

The Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" biplane (1916).  How beautiful is that?

Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing

The Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing (1927).

On the way out, I decided I just had to get a decent photo of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.  It took me about ten minutes to get this photo!!  It is in such an awkward position!

Lockheed F104 Starfighter

It is unfortunate that you can’t see what a spectacular aircraft this is.  This was the first US jet fighter to fly twice the speed of sound.  This particular plane was in service with NASA for 19 years and was donated to the museum after it flew its last flight in 1975.

All too quickly my time at the National Air and Space Museum came to an end and it was time to walk on up to the Capitol.

To access all my posts in DC, click on the "Washington, DC" tag below and to access all posts from my trip to the US, click on the "New York 2009" tab.

23 comments on "DC: National Air and Space Museum"
  1. Emm great set of photographs. I am a bit of a "plane spotter" so I really enjoyed this one.

  2. I'm so glad to learn that you didn't miss the Air & Space. Isn't it a wonderful museum?! I've been several times and still find new stuff to learn. The last time I was there I went in the "early flight" gallery for the first time and was really blown away by it. I'd skipped it before because I didn't think it would be as interesting as the more recent stuff. Wrong!

    Glad you liked it, too. Come back again, with your husband, and go to the annex at Dulles--even more wonderful planes!

    PS. Thanks for the kind words and links to my blogs, too!

  3. Wonderful photos and post! I am impressed with your note taking...great job! Now you should visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida! That is an amazing place...I really enjoyed this one...

  4. As ex-RAF V-bomber navigator, I love aircraft; great set of photos. OK, one small error, it's a Ford Tri-motor, rather than a Fort. Never done DC, but if I do, I'll visit this museum.

  5. WOW, you are awesome!
    The photos and notes are so detailed and impressed. The museum is too amazing!!

  6. What a great post about one of "our" pride and joy museums. I live within a reasonable drive of DC, and my son and I have visited Air and Space many many times. They also have a great section for kids which teaches the principles of making things fly (I say "for kids" but my husband and I found it fascinating and learned a lot there, too). It's a great place to visit and I'm so happy you enjoyed it!

  7. DC is one of the most awesome places to visit in the U.S. Lots of history. Glad you had a chance to see it for yourself.

  8. Hi Emm! Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. Love the Space Museum; great shots!!

    Old Town Bilbao is now at Blogtrotter for your joy. Have a great weekend!!

  9. I would like to attend such museum but unfortunately, we do not have one in our country. Regarding durians, some say they smell like pig shit. The flavor is like cream cheese. You got to try it yourself!

  10. Looks like the sort of place I would enjoy, have you been to the RAF Museum at Hendon in London, which is a truly amazing place to visit.

  11. great photos! that trip looked very interesting! I have never been to an aviation museum etc.. been to plenty of science ones or fairs. might have to check out one sometime in the near future! great job!

  12. I do love to see all kinds of airplanes and if I am at a new place I try to visit the museums.

  13. @ Mike: I had thought you might like it!

    @ Kathy: The annex at Dulles looks amazing!! I would definitely consider it! I can't see Ste catching a coach anyway so we'd be coming in by air.

    @ Carolyn: It hadn't occurred to me how very much I wanted to visit Kennedy until you mentioned it but I do!! I would love to visit there! I have family in Miami so I guess I'll visit that side of the world eventually.

    @ John: I'm glad you liked the photos! Thank you for the correction - given how tired I was on Friday night, I am surprised there was only one (so far).

    @ Chen Yin Tzu: I am just nerdy like that!!! I always have my little notebook with me!

    @ Erin: Oh definitely. I'd love to go back there one day too... it really is that good.

    @ AVCr8teur: I am glad too. It was a long, hot day but I would have regretted not taking the trip over there from New York.

    @ GMG: Thank you!

    @ Jam: Oh, that sounds horrible! But if it is a natural, farm like smell I guess I could bear it. But fruit that tastes like cream cheese??? I'd have to try it before I decide...

    @ William: No, I haven't. Perhaps you could volunteer to be my tour guide there one day!?

    @ Jenna: It was really good - I would absolutely recommend it. Live air shows are usually amazing too!

    @ Morten: Hiya! Thanks for stopping by here and commenting! I'm a museum person too, definitely!

  14. I took my sons to this museum and it is really a neat place. Glad you had time to see it!

  15. This is awesome. I remember I followed the SpaceShip01 affair closely.

  16. Thank you emm for your post, and thanks for your advice :) Italo.

  17. Very impressed with your indoor picture taking--my lighting always comes out funny, don't bother anymore. We love this museum too, though Kate heads directly for the flight simulator...

  18. Looks like an amazing museum, Emm.

  19. Hi Emm,
    I remember visting this place many years ago, my how it has been updated! Lovely shots of the place which is more akin to sci-fi in some pictures.

  20. Hey you have one willing volunteer right here, I have been meaning to go back again because last time never managed to see everything before they closed....

  21. Hey, I didn't know you are so familiar with the world of aircrafts. We definitely have this in common! ;)

    I also hope I make it to this museum one day. It looks really huge. How long did your visit take?
    The only aircraft museum I visited so far was in Malta and I liked it a lot.

  22. @ Cassandra: oh, kids must just love it there!!

    @ SA Expats: I think it is cool that the spacecraft itself looks so retro!!

    @ Italo: oh, it's a pleasure!

    @ ProdigalWife: I get more motion sensitive as time goes by and the flight simulator definitely wasn't for me! It is hard to take photos inside!! I often have to take a few before I keep one!

    @ Blessingsgoddess: It was indeed lovely and very much recommended.

    @ Martin: I tell you, visiting all of the museums I've visited this year has really put what I learned in school to shame. There are even new theories as to how the moon was formed!

    @ William: Great! Perhaps we can schedule a Saturday in January?

    @ Marko: I'm not that knowledgeable but I do like to learn about aircraft! I like going to air shows too. I have no idea how long I was there that day unfortunately, but I always recommend at least 90 minutes in these places.

  23. Very nice travel...
    I would love to visit NYC too...
    Greetings from france,



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