Exhibitions on view at the National Air and Space Museum cover topics from the earliest days of flight to modern planetary exploration. Important artifacts from the Museum's extensive collection provide the basis for exhibitions.
This year the Museum reopened the newly redesigned Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall (see Spotlight), opened one temporary exhibition — A New Moon Rises: New Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera — and put a set of iconic space artifacts on display — Neil Armstrong's lunar extravehicular gloves and helmet, which recently underwent conservation.
Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall Reopens
The Museum reopened the Washington, DC, building’s central gallery, the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, July 1, 2016, in conjunction with the Museum’s 40th anniversary. The exhibition space had remained largely unaltered since the building’s opening in 1976, and the two-year renovation was made possible by a gift from Boeing.
All artifacts in the gallery have had a significant cultural, historic, scientific, or technological impact on society. The Apollo Lunar Module 2, previously displayed in another gallery, is now the centerpiece of the exhibition. Spacecraft such as John Glenn’s Mercury Friendship 7, the Gemini IV capsule, and Mariner 2 are still on display, along with the Viking Lander, SpaceShipOne, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis.
New additions are the massive wind-tunnel fan used by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NACA (predecessor to NASA); 18th- and 19th-century ballooning artifacts; the Discoverer XIII satellite re-entry capsule, the first human-made object to be recovered from orbit; a turbojet engine developed by Sir Frank Whittle between 1939 and 1941; and the backup craft to Telstar I, the world’s first active communications satellite. The studio model of the starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek series is also on display after undergoing a nearly two-year restoration. The exacting nature of the restoration, and its new location in Milestones, made thousands of avid Star Trek fans very pleased.
The installation introduced three new digital components — a 16- x 12-foot interactive wall in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall itself, a mobile app named GO FLIGHT, and a redesigned museum website (see the Digital Engagement section for details).
The new in-depth interpretation of the artifacts and the addition of these new digital elements will serve as a model for future exhibitions as the Museum prepares to launch into a period of transformation.