Visit the Renovated Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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Eight new exhibits at the Washington D.C. museum

Who knew the new museum could be better than the original? We got a preview of the new Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at a press event in mid-October. Instead of simply presenting information to visitors, the exhibitions provide ways of engaging people through nearly 100 interactive and digital experiences.

Some highlights include a tour of the solar system to learn what it would be like to walk on another world through an immersive, interactive experience in the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery. Another is One World Connected where visitors can look through a mockup of the cupola from the International Space Station (ISS) to experience the kind of view astronauts on the ISS have of the Earth.

Creating new spaces from the bottom up and inside out

The museum has been undergoing a seven-year renovation that began in 2018 and includes redesigning all 23 exhibitions and presentation spaces, complete refacing of the exterior cladding, replacement of outdated mechanical systems and other repairs and improvements. The entire project is expected to be complete in 2025.

A variety of techniques and tools have also been implemented in the new galleries to make the interactives accessible to visitors with vision, hearing and mobility disabilities. 

New settings for new and old artifacts

The renovated museum will feature hundreds of new artifacts to the building such as the WR-3 air racer built by Neal Loving, the first African American certified to race airplanes; a T-38 flown by Jackie Cochran, the first woman to break the sound barrier; and Sean Tucker’s custom-built aerobatic biplane, the Aviation Specialties Unlimited Challenger III.

Also displayed for the first time is the full-sized X-Wing Starfighter that appeared in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, on loan from Lucasfilm, and a pair of prosthetic ear tips made for Leonard Nimoy to portray Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series. 

Visitors see favorite artifacts presented in new settings. In the same gallery as the Apollo 11 command module, Alan Shepard’s Mercury spacesuit and the capsule he flew, Mercury Freedom 7, are on display for the first time since 2015.

We found the exhibit on Communications and Satellites particularly interesting beginning in early radio days to how these satellites are all connected today.

The original 1903 Wright Flyer is in a dynamic new environment that better tells the story of the invention of flying and its implication on world history.

 In the future the planetarium will offer significant upgrades to its technological capabilities and include new screencast abilities that will allow connection with planetariums around the country and vastly expand the museum’s reach.

The new Mars Café on the lower level has beverages, sandwiches, salads and pastries and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is so much to see and do at the museum plan to take a break for time to absorb everything.

For more information go to Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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