Named as the best science center in the United States by Mensa International – the international high IQ society, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is known for having the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft. The National Air and Space Museum (https://airandspace.si.edu/) is part of the Smithsonian Institution, which is the world’s largest museum and research complex, comprised of 19 museums, 9 research centers, and over 140 affiliated museums around the globe.
Although the National Air and Space Museum might seem like many a science center with a number of exhibitions, an IMAX theater, and a planetarium, the Smithsonian’s content and displays far exceed the average expectations. In addition to teaching visitors the basics of “how things work,” this museum also dives into how these things have changed over time and how they affect us now.
An exhibition exploring the great Space Race and celebrating 50 years of human space travel shows us the technological advancements occurring throughout the decades as well as the public impact of these amazing feats. Another exhibition focuses on the harsh reality of what the Air Force was like in World War I, the first war in which aircrafts were deployed on a large scale. These exhibitions span as far back as the birth of flight with the Wright brothers, featuring the 1903 Wright Flyer, the world’s first successful airplane, and as far into the future as speculating on space exploration of our entire solar system and beyond.
As is true with many major science centers, each of these exhibitions is complemented by a related movie shown in a 3D IMAX theater, with the current movie lineup including Space Junk, Air Racers, and Roving Mars. There are also numerous demonstrations that take place each day where experts can personally teach visitors about flight on Earth and through space.
The National Air and Space Museum also provides many interactive displays that visitors can experience. The Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory gives people the opportunity to look through telescopes and see firsthand craters on the Moon, spots on the Sun, the phases of Venus, and other celestial objects. A research astronomer is also on hand to answer questions visitors have about the wonders of space.
If visitors grow tired of looking and want to experience the science of air and space firsthand, there are also flight simulators to try out. Visitors can experience flight in simulated World War I aerial combat, take a roller coaster through space, or ride aboard an F-18 Super Hornet.
Regardless of what kind of experience you’re looking for, there will undoubtedly be something at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum that will intrigue you about how far humans have come in exploring the world around us.
Images courtesy of https://airandspace.si.edu/collections/