Are you a space exploration buff, an aviation history enthusiast, or a speed demon? Here’s something you won’t want to miss! On Friday, October 14, The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will reopen half of its flagship building on the National Mall. Eight new and renovated exhibitions, the planetarium, the museum store, and Mars Café will open on the building’s west end.
The museum’s exhibition plan will use creative and dynamic techniques to engage visitors while they are at the museum. For example, in the “Kenneth C. Exploring the Planets Gallery,” visitors will tour the solar system and learn what it would be like to walk on another world through an immersive, interactive experience.
The seven-year renovation project, which began in 2018, includes redesigning all 23 exhibitions and presentation spaces, complete refacing of the exterior cladding, replacement of outdated mechanical systems, and other repairs and improvements. Here are the new exhibits.
America By Air
Learn the history of American air transportation, including the technology that revolutionized air travel and America’s changing flight experience. Explore a Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor, Boeing 247, and DC-3 airliners. Feel like a pilot in the cockpit simulation of an Airbus A320 and enter the nose of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
The Apollo 11 Mission in 1969 and the earlier pioneering flights are commemorated in a new, state-of-the-art traveling exhibition. The Apollo 11 command module Columbia, exhibited in a custom-designed, climate-controlled case, is the centerpiece of this exhibit.
“Early Flight” explores the first decade of flight by taking visitors to the fictitious Smithsonian Aeronautical Exposition of 1913. Artifacts include the Lilienthal Glider, 1909 Wright Military Flyer, and the Blériot XI, which represent record-setting, boundary-pushing advances in aviation during one short decade.
Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring The Planets Gallery
This exhibit tells us the stories of the worlds circling our Sun. We learn why and how exploring those worlds gives us a better understanding of Earth. The exhibit builds upon research from scientists who are actively involved in current planetary missions.
Nation Of Speed
This exhibit features Mario Andretti’s iconic vehicles from the Indy 500 winning race car to the Sharp DR 90 Nemesis. “Nation of Speed” explores America’s “need for speed” and the technology developed to enhance our ability to go faster and faster. It explores speed as part of American culture and identity. “Nation of Speed” is presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
One World Connected
Aviation and spaceflight redefined the connectedness of our world. “One World Connected” features an array of satellites and other technology that have increased global human connection. On the museum grounds, you’ll see the full-sized X-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, on loan from Lucasfilm.
Thomas W. Haas We All Fly
“Thomas W. Haas We All Fly” honors America’s history of general aviation and aviation’s deep impact on society. This gallery explores aviation as multifaceted — sport, business, and humanitarian. Aircraft featured in the gallery include the Oracle Challenger III, Cirrus SR22, and the Lear Jet 23.
Wright Brothers And The Invention Of The Aerial Age
The invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright is a great American story. Their invention changed the world. The 1903 Wright Flyer will be displayed in a dynamic new environment that better tells the story of the invention of flying and its impact on world history.
The easiest way to reach the museum is via Metrorail or Metrobus. The closest Metro station is L’Enfant Plaza. Metrobus routes, as well as the DC Circulator’s National Mall route, will all take you to the Mall.
Visitors to the museum should expect “airport-style” security screening, meaning metal detectors for all guests and X-ray machines for bags. This could add up to 15 minutes to get through security and during the busy school season, possibly even longer.
Best Times To Visit
The busiest time of the year for D.C. museums is from March through August, and Saturday afternoons are especially packed. To avoid crowds, it’s best to visit the museum on a weekday. Try to arrive before the museum opens.
There will be rolling closures through 2025, as the entire Air and Space Museum undergoes renovations to the decades-old building and exhibits. The Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater is closed until the renovation project is complete (2025).
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