The National Air and Space Museum is Open for Business

Image (Credit): The “Destination Moon” exibition at the refurbished National Air and Space Museum. (Smithsonian Museum)

If you have been awaiting the refurbishing of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, then you will be happy to know that the museum reopened on October 14th. Only now you cannot simply stroll into the museum. Instead, you need to obtain a free timed-entry pass. Unfortunately, this seems to be the current system used by numerous museums to control traffic as well as capture all of your personal information so they can swamp you with junk mail and offers. Anyway…

Here are the a few of the new exhibits the museum is highlighting (go here for the full list):

  1. “Walking On Other Worlds”: Experience what it’s like in distant parts of our solar system in the “Walking on Other Worlds” interactive experience in the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery. This immersive media exhibit presents visitors with a seven-minute “tour” of seven different worlds: Venus, Earth’s Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn’s moon Titan, asteroid Ryugu, and comet 67P.
  2. Science Fiction Artifacts: New to display is a full-sized T-70 X-wing Starfighter “flown” by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). The screen-used vehicle is on long-term loan from Lucasfilm and is displayed hanging outside the planetarium. Star Trek is also represented in the new exhibitions. 
  3. ISS Cupola: In the One World Connected gallery, put yourself in the shoes of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) with the ISS Cupola interactive. Every 90 minutes, astronauts on board the ISS can see the Sun rise from the station’s Cupola, a European Space Agency-built observatory module. 

Given that NASA’s Artemis 1 mission is shooting for the Moon again, the timing is perfect. Of course, in December 2022 it will have been 50 years since the last human walk on the Moon’s surface, so we have a lot to celebrate as well as a lot of time to make up. Let’s hope a future update to the National Air and Space Museum includes models of spacecraft used to get humans to Mars.

And remember, you can also visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside the Washington Beltway that contains large planes, jets, and spacecraft that cannot fit in the DC museum, including the Space Shuttle Discovery. Last time I went there I could walk right in without using a timed-entry pass.

Image (Credit): Space Shuttle Discovery at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. (Smithsonian Museum)