May 10, 2023

Visit the Renovated Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Katie and Gene Hamilton

Bring Binocular News

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, eight new exhibits at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum engage visitors with digital and interactive 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cladding, replacement of outdated mechanical systems and other repairs and improvements.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 T38 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 Lucas Films, 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.

And if you’re in Washington D.C. you may be interested in another story about the amazing things to see and do there Discover Washington D.C. or this crossword puzzle Washington D. C.

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Gene and Katie Hamilton are amateur astronomers who follow the stars and write about their dark sky adventures. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
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