In 2016 we commemorated 40 great years of unparalleled success, and demonstrated yet again why we are one of the world’s favorite museums. To celebrate, we reopened our central exhibition, the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall after an extensive redesign. This wasn’t the only highlight of 2016. We acquired new artifacts, made new discoveries on our most popular objects, and helped unlock the mysteries of the planet Mercury. We’ve had a great 40 years, and it’s only the beginning.
By all the measures we use to judge success at the National Air and Space Museum, 2015 was a great year. Two new exhibitions opened, both to critical acclaim. Educational activities have increased at both Museum locations: at any given time during public hours an educational program is taking place at one or both of our buildings. We published several books and participated in significant discoveries on other planets; among these was a study linking Earth's gravitational forces to the shrinking of the Moon.
As you will learn in the pages ahead, 2014 was a busy year for the Museum. We launched exhibitions; acquired new artifacts and relocated others; conducted hundreds of educational activities, including one that enabled children to speak to astronauts on the ISS; expanded Collections activities and held our first behind-the-scenes Open House; increased digital programming; produced 13 books; presented a number of standing-room-only lectures; and conducted research on Earth and other planets.
From sharing Leonardo da Vinci's fascination with human flight to exploring whether humans might live on other planets, from teaching a preschooler how a propeller works to generating broadcasts and webcasts onto screens across America, we advanced our mission in broad, new ways in 2013. Guided by the words "commemorate, educate, and inspire," we brought millions of people of all ages together, in our buildings and beyond our walls, through exhibitions and activities based on our research in aviation, space history, and planetary studies.
“Discovery” is the best word to describe the Museum’s 2012 activities — and not just because we welcomed a space shuttle by that name into the collection. The word also fits activities in research, education, exhibitions, programs, and collections care. Whether it was introducing kids to aviation pioneers, presenting programs that showcased planetary scientists’ most recent findings, or acquiring artifacts that represent ground-breaking technologies, the Museum embraced “discovery” in every sense of the word.
On almost all fronts, from research to programs to care of the collection, 2011 was a transitional year for the Museum. From announcing the next Mars landing site to recreating a 19th century balloon ascension to teaching children about the solar system to moving entire collections from one location to another, we accomplished a wide variety of things last year, most of them reflecting new initiatives and future objectives.
As a museum with dual commitments to history and science, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum focuses its activities in three major areas: aviation, space exploration, and planetary studies. In 2009, we recognized anniversaries in all three. These historic events, as well as myriad other activities presented by the Museum last year, were guided by our mission, to "commemorate," "educate" and "inspire."