The National Air and Space Museum is situated in the Smithsonian complex on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Since opening in 1976, its purpose has been to honor aviation and space heritage while educating and inspiring its visitors. The museum (along with its second location in Chantilly, VA) contains the largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts. All components of human flight are showcased, including related art and archival materials. The two facilities receive more than 8 million visitors per year, making it the most visited museum in the U.S.
At the museum in Washington, DC, you’ll find thousands of objects. Among the most significant is the 1903 Wright Flyer, Lindbergh’s so-called “Spirit of St. Louis,” the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, Amelia Earhart's bright red Lockheed 5B Vega and a lunar rock that can be touched by visitors. This museum also features an IMAX Theater, a planetarium and public observatory so you can be a daytime astronomer. Daily tours are offered and educational events are available for children and adults. The museum also features science demonstrations and story times for younger children.
The National Air and Space Museum is located at Independence Avenue at 6th Street SW in DC, directly on the National Mall. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but the museum does not close until 7:30 p.m. during the summer. There is limited metered street parking available, as well as several local lots, including two blocks south at 6th and C Streets SW, however, the easiest way to reach the museum is via Metrorail or Metrobus. The closest Metro stop is Smithsonian, on the Blue and Orange lines. The 32, 34 and 36 Metrobus routes will all take you to the National Mall. The museum is handicap-accessible.
Due to its location on the National Mall, the museum is in close proximity to other monuments and memorials. The White House, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial are all close by. The U.S. Botanic Garden is also a short walk away, and so is the Southwest Waterfront, which is full of restaurants and entertainment.
- The 1903 Wright Flyer has a wingspan of 40 feet, 4 inches and is 9 feet tall. It does not have wheels, as it used skids for landing gear.
- Charles A. Lindbergh personally presented the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft to the Smithsonian Institution on April 30, 1928.
- Columbia, the Apollo 11 Command Module, is the only portion of the Apollo 11 spacecraft to return to Earth.
- The museum has 21 exhibition galleries, and presents approximately 20 lectures, 12 family days and 30 unique events each year.
- The Smithsonian began its aeronautical collection in 1876 when a group of kites were acquired from the Chinese Imperial Commission.