Top 5 Stories of 2019

Posted on Tue, December 31, 2019

2019 was a big year at the National Air and Space Museum, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and worked hard on our ongoing renovation. We shared stories about these projects and more on the blog this year. Let’s dive into five of the most popular stories of 2019.

1.  "We Choose to Go to the Moon" and Other Apollo Speeches 

president standing behind podium

President John F. Kennedy delivers his famous "We Choose to Go to the Moon" speech at Rice University in September 1962.

We examine the accomplishment of the Apollo 11 Moon landing through the lens of three speeches:

  • President John F. Kennedy’s address before a joint session of Congress, when he declared "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth"
  • JFK’s "We Choose To Go to the Moon" speech at Rice University, during which he explained that we set these space-faring goals, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
  • The speech prepared by President Richard Nixon’s speechwriters in case the Apollo 11 Moon landing ended in tragedy, which begins "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace."


2. Transforming the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery 

Lockheed 5B Vega in Pioneers of Flight

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 5B Vega on display in Pioneers of Flight.

The museum has had a Pioneers of Flight gallery since we opened in 1976. After the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery closed in October as part of our transformation of the Museum in DC, we take you through past versions of the gallery and provide a preview of what the new version will hold when it reopens in 2022.


3. Preserving Flak-Bait’s Fabric Panels

Inside of cockpit

View into the cockpit of Flak-Bait after the treated fabric panels were re-installed July 2019.

We have a world-class Conservation Lab at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and one project they are working on is the Museum’s Martin B-26B Marauder Flak-Bait. They are currently working to ensure its state of state of preservation well into the future by performing a number of innovative conservation treatments. This blog explores work to preserve Flak-Bait’s fabric panels.


4. Protecting the Beaches with Balloons: D-Day and the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion

Barrage Balloons at Normandy

Barrage balloons protect dozens of ships on the Normandy beaches as they offload the men, material, and munitions needed to expand the beachhead. NARA 342-FH-3A17185-71287AC

For the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we tell the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only unit comprised entirely of African American soldiers to storm the beach that day. They provided critical protection to the ships and soldiers below them from attacks by enemy aircraft, and continue to provide us a glimpse into the U.S. military’s use of balloon technology.


5. The Big Three

Aircraft in restoration hangar

Douglas DC-3, Boeing 247-D, and the Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hanger at Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, after being removed from the America by Air hall at the museum in DC.

This summer, visitors had a unique opportunity to see the transformation of American commercial aviation on the floor of the Mary Engen Restoration Hangar at our Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. There, resting side-by-side in chronological order, were the three airliners that transformed the U.S. airline industry, now removed temporarily from our flagship building on the National Mall to the Udvar-Hazy Center for conservation work before they are returned to exhibit in a revamped America by Air hall in 2022.