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Udvar-Hazy Center to Spread Its Wings at Dulles

The project's architect is HOK, the same firm that built the Air and Space building on the Mall, as well as Phase 1 of the Udvar-Hazy Center. Museum officials say the construction should not disrupt museum visits.

Udvar-Hazy, in Chantilly, is about 28 miles from the landmark museum on the Mall, which is the most visited museum in the world. Early on, a shuttle operated between the Mall and the site near Dulles International Airport, but it was discontinued because of rising expenses and scant ridership.

When the Udvar-Hazy expansion was on the drawing board, the downtown museum was reporting 9 million visitors a year, and planners for the new attraction mixed together a variety of numbers and came up with an estimate of 2 million to 3 million visitors a year.

The center's attendance has hovered around 1 million annually. Through September, 893,000 people have visited in 2008. The Mall facility has had 5.8 million visitors.

"An early business estimate, again assuming there was a Metro at Dulles, said we would get to 1.5 million. People were thinking, 'Sure it could happen,' " Dailey said. "We are comfortable we are on course."

The attendance affects the income that the museum relies on to pay off its debt.

But yesterday, besides the practical jokes, there was much talk of inspiration. "Future generations will come here and be stunned by what those that came before them have done. They will see that they stand on the shoulders of giants," Clough said. "And as much as they may be in awe, they will also be inspired to take the next leap into the future."

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