The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum maintains the world's largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, encompassing all aspects of human flight, as well as related works of art and archival materials. It operates two landmark facilities that, together, welcome more than eight million visitors a year, making it the most visited museum in the country. It also is home to the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.

One Museum, Two Locations

The Museum's two buildings house thousands of artifacts showcased in exhibitions on aviation, space exploration, and planetary science. At both of its locations, the Museum presents programs, educational activities, lectures, and performances that reflect the American spirit, and the innovation, courage, and optimism that have led to triumphs in the history, science and technology of flight. At the Museum in Washington, DC, which opened in 1976 and is located in the heart of the Smithsonian complex in Washington, DC, some of the most awe-inspiring icons of flight are on display. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, is a massive structure with open, hangar-like settings that accommodate large aircraft and spacecraft, as well as entire collections of aviation and space artifacts.

Mission: "Commemorate, Educate, Inspire"

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum collects, preserves, studies, and exhibits artifacts, archival materials, and works of art related to the history, culture, and science of aviation and spaceflight and the study of the universe. Its research and outreach activities serve all audiences, within and beyond its walls. The Museum commemorates the past and is committed to educating and inspiring people to foster appreciation for the importance of flight to humanity.

Vision: "Helping Build a Nation of Innovators and Explorers"

Facts and Figures
  • The Museum is the largest of the Smithsonian's 19 museums and its Center for Earth and Planetary studies is one of the Institution's nine research centers.
  • More than eight million people a year visit the Museum's two locations, making it one of the most visited museum in the country. Since it opened in 1976, the Museum has welcomed 311 million visitors.
  • The Museum's collection encompasses some 60,000 objects ranging in size from Saturn V rockets to jetliners to gliders to space helmets to microchips. Fully one-third of the Museum's aircraft and spacecraft are one-of-a-kind or associated with a major milestone.
  • More than 12,000 cubic feet of documents recording the history, science, and technology of flight are housed in the Museum's Archives. The facility also holds the most complete collection of aviation and space images — more than 1.75 million photographs and 14,000 film and video titles.
  • The Museum in Washington, DC has 21 exhibition galleries, covering diverse topics from world wars to the history of astronomy, from the Apollo space program to the relationship between time and navigation, to the Wright brothers and the aerial age.
  • Three connecting hangars hold hundreds of aviation and space artifacts at the Udvar-Hazy Center, including the Space Shuttle Discovery; the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay; a NASA android; Charles Lindbergh memorabilia; space science instruments; and pilot and astronaut equipment and gear.
  • Each year the Museum presents approximately 20 lectures, 12 family days, and 30 unique events. These educational programs often feature pioneers in aviation and space, including pilots, astronauts, and scientists.
  • Our experts are making discoveries on Mercury, the Moon and Mars; have produced the world's most definitive research on spacesuits; are researching the history of Star Trek; and wrote a children's book on the demotion of Pluto. Visit the Museum any time on our website or connect with us on social media. Many exhibitions are online, most lectures are webcast live, and the Public Observatory often streams live images of the Sun.
Organization and People
The National Air and Space Museum is the largest of 21 museums included in the Smithsonian Institution. The Museum's Director is assisted by four Associate Directors, who oversee Curatorial Affairs; Collections, Archives and Logistics; Education;  and External Affairs.

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The Smithsonian's aeronautical collection began in 1876 when a group of kites was acquired from the Chinese Imperial Commission.

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Annual Report
Read a yearly review of what goes on at the Museum, beginning in 2009.

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Our Research
Our staff conduct ground-breaking research in earth and planetary science and the history of aviation and spaceflight. Learn more about our researchers' work.

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