Editors' pick

National Air and Space Museum - Smithsonian Institution

National Air and Space Museum - Smithsonian Institution photo
(Eric Long/National Air and Space Museum)

Editorial Review

The Buzz: Opened in 1976, the Air and Space museum explores the dramatic story of aviation, from the first fleeting successes to the successful landing on the moon 60 years later. The museum also explores the science of flight, the politics of space exploration and the concept of the universe. The space has soaring galleries and beautiful views of the Capitol and Mall.

The Collections: Air and Space's best exhibits remain the planes and spaceships themselves. With planes floating overhead, the Milestones of Flight gallery is the museum's signature space. It houses the Mercury Friendship 7 (in which John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth), the 1903 Wright flyer (which made the first manned flight), Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis (in which he made the first solo flight across the Atlantic) and the Apollo 11 command module (from the first moon landing). Also on display in that gallery is a tiny triangle of moon rock that visitors can touch. Space Race, another notable gallery, traces a half-century of the competition between the United States and Russia to conquer space.

Programs: The museum hosts family day activities each month and lectures by notable scientists and museum curators. The Albert Einstein Planetarium offers a glimpse of the universe in a changing schedule of programs that screen nearly every half hour.

Extras: Just off the entrance hall, IMAX movies are projected in a theater with a five-story-high screen. Tickets are a hot commodity, so purchase them in advance via the museum's Web site or immediately upon arriving at the museum. The Air and Space's museum store offers a couple of not-to-be-missed souvenirs. Freeze-dried "Space Food," ice cream sandwiches and cheese pizzas developed for Apollo astronauts are popular purchases. There is a McDonald's in the museum's food court.