Milestones of Flight

The Museum's grand entry hall, Milestones of Flight showcases a truly awesome collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft that represent epic achievements in aviation and space flight.

Some of the other aviation achievements celebrated here: Charles Lindbergh's solo trip across the Atlantic in his Spirit of St. Louis; the first American jet aircraft, the Bell XP-59A Airacomet; the Bell X-1 in which "Chuck" Yeager first broke the mythical "sound barrier"; and the fastest aircraft ever flown, the North American X-15.

Some space triumphs represented here: the Mercury capsule Friendship 7 flown by John Glenn; the Apollo 11 command module Columbia from the first lunar landing mission; Mariner, Pioneer, and Viking planetary explorers; and the first privately developed, piloted vehicle to reach space, SpaceShipOne. You can even touch a Moon rock here.


Goddard Rocket (1926) replica

Goddard Rocket (1926)
This is a replica of Robert H. Goddard's first liquid-propellant rocket to achieve flight. The original rocket, launched on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Massachusetts, was damaged upon impact. The flight reached an altitude of 12 meters (41 feet), lasted 2.5 seconds, and covered a horizontal distance of 56 meters (184 feet).

More Information: Goddard Rocket (1926)

Goddard Rocket (1941)

Goddard Rocket (1941)
This is an original Goddard rocket, the last in a series tested between November 1939 and October 1941. Part of its casing has been removed to reveal some of the internal features.
Gift of the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation.

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Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis

Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis
On May 21, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh completed the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight in history, flying his Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis 5,810 kilometers (3,610 miles) between Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, and Paris, France, in 33 hours, 30 minutes. With this flight, Lindbergh won the $25,000 prize offered by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig to the first aviator to fly an aircraft directly across the Atlantic between New York and Paris. When he landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris, Lindbergh became a world hero who would remain in the public eye for decades.

More Information: Spirit of St. Louis

Bell XP-59A Airacomet

Bell XP-59A Airacomet
This aircraft, the first Bell XP-59A, is the direct ancestor of all American jet aircraft. Built for testing purposes, it proved that turbojet-powered flight was feasible and efficient.

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Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis"

Bell X-1
On October 14, 1947, the Bell X-1 became the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound. Piloted by U.S. Air Force Capt. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, the X-1 reached a speed of 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) per hour, Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters (43,000 feet). Yeager named the airplane Glamorous Glennis in tribute to his wife.

More Information: Bell X-1

Sputnik Model in Milestones of Flight

Sputnik 1
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully placed the world's first artificial satellite into orbit around Earth. Sputnik 1 had two radio transmitters and broadcast the "beep-beep-beep" that symbolically ushered in the space age.

Explorer 1 (backup)

Explorer 1
Explorer 1 became America's first satellite on January 31, 1958. Following the Soviet success with Sputnik and the embarrassing failure in December 1957 of the first American attempt to launch a satellite, the U.S. Army launched a scientific satellite using a rocket that had been developed to test guided missile components.

North American X-15 in Milestones of Flight

North American X-15
The North American X-15, a rocket-powered research aircraft, bridged the gap between manned flight in the atmosphere and space flight. After its initial test flights in 1959, the X-15 became the first winged aircraft to attain hypersonic velocities of Mach 4, 5, and 6 (four to six times the speed of sound) and to operate at altitudes well above 30,500 meters (100,000 feet).

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Mercury Capsule MA-6 "Friendship 7"

Mercury Friendship 7
The Mercury spacecraft in which astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth. On February 20, 1962, Glenn circled the Earth three times. The space flight lasted 4 hours and 55 minutes. Friendship 7 landed in the Atlantic Ocean.

More Information: Mercury Friendship 7

Mariner 2

Mariner 2
On December 14, 1962, useful scientific information was radioed to Earth from the vicinity of another planet for the first time. The unmanned Mariner 2 spacecraft, with its six scientific instruments, passed within 34,800 kilometers (21,600 miles) of Venus. Mariner 2 indicated that Venus is very hot and has no measureable magnetic fields or radiation belts. On the way to Venus, Mariner 2's instruments detected and measured the radiation, magnetic fields, and dust of interplanetary space.

Gemini IV Interior

Gemini IV
On June 3, 1965, astronaut Edward H. White II became the first American to perform an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or "spacewalk." During his 20 minutes outside Gemini IV, White remained connected to the spacecraft's life-support and communications systems by the golden "umbilical cord," and he used a hand-held jet thruster to maneuver in space. His crewmate, James A. McDivitt, remained inside the spacecraft. The first EVA had been performed three months earlier by Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov, who remained outside his spacecraft for about 10 minutes.

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia
The Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their historic voyage to the Moon and back on July 16-24, 1969. This mission culminated in the first human steps on another world.

More Information: Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia

Moon Rock

Touchable Moon Rock
This lunar sample was cut from a rock collected on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. Found near the landing site in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, it is an iron-rich, fine-textured volcanic rock called basalt. It is nearly four billion years old.

Viking Mars Lander (proof test article)

Viking Lander
Two Viking landers were the first spacecraft to conduct prolonged scientific studies on the surface of another planet. Viking 1 began its 10-month journey to Mars on August 20, 1975. Viking 2 followed on September 9. After entering Mars orbit, the spacecraft orbiters conducted photographic surveys of the planet's surface to assist in the search for safe landing sites. Viking 1 landed on July 20, 1976; Viking 2 landed on September 3.

More Information: Viking Lander

Pioneer 10 replica

Pioneer 10
Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to fly by Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. It later became the first human-made object to cross the orbit of Pluto, the farthest planet.

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SS-20 "Saber"

Pershing-II and SS-20 Missiles
The Pershing-II and SS-20 missiles exhibited here are two of more than 2,600 nuclear missiles banned by the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in December 1987. The INF Treaty is a milestone in the effort to control nuclear arms. It is the first international agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons--those having a range of 500-5,500 kilometers (300-3,400 miles). The U.S. Pershing-II and the Soviet SS-20 were regarded as the most threatening missiles in this class.

Breitling Orbiter 3 Balloon

Breitling Orbiter 3 Gondola
On March 1, 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones lifted off from the Swiss alpine village of Chateau d'Oex in the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon. On March 21, 1999 — 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes later — they landed in the Egyptian desert after traveling 45,755 kilometers (28,431 miles) and completing the first nonstop flight around the world in a balloon.

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Launched from its White Knight mothership, the rocket-powered SpaceShipOne and its pilot ascended just beyond the atmosphere, arced through space (but not into orbit), then glided safely back to Earth. The flight lasted 24 minutes, with 3 minutes of weightlessness.