A Year in Review - 2016 at the National Air and Space Museum

Posted on Sat, December 31, 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, we take a look back at the highs and lows of the year. It was a busy year for the Museum with the opening of new exhibitions and celebrating our 40th anniversary. Most importantly, we were glad we could share the year with you, our fellow aerospace enthusiasts. Did you have a favorite moment from 2016? Let us know @airandspace.

Celebrating Our 40th Anniversary

On Friday, July 1, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Museum in Washington, DC by staying open all night—a first for the Museum. We hosted a film festival, music, tours, special guests, and the whole thing was broadcast live.  We also asked you to share your memories from visiting the Museum. Travis H. wrote, “I first walked into the Milestones of Flight gallery when I was a child, roughly 35 years ago. I remember being completely in awe of all the awesome air and spacecraft on display. It's been a constant draw for me throughout my life, and is a big part of who I am.”

Opening of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall

We officially unveiled the renovated Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall just in time for the Museum’s anniversary. The months leading up to the opening were nearly as exciting as the big day as we moved and conserved some of the Museum’s most beloved objects. We moved the Lunar Module and inspected it piece by piece; the Apollo 11 Command Module was 3D scanned and we discovered handwritten notes inside the spacecraft; and we captured stunning photography of artifacts including the Spirit of St. Louis

We also launched a new way for you to connect to the Museum with our official—and free—app,  GO FLIGHT. Find compelling stories, surprising connections, and personalized tours.

Star Trek Enterprise Studio Model Preserved and Displayed

After months of research and conservation treatment, the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model went back on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. We shared our findings along the way from the model’s original paint colors to the nuts and bolts that make up this 1960s icon.

Remembering the People We Lost

Along with the joys of the year, we also felt great sadness. In 2016, we lost a number of our personal heroes and icons in the field. In December, we lost American hero John Glenn. Glenn was a Marine aviator and combat veteran of two wars, the first American to orbit the Earth, a space shuttle crewmember, a United States Senator, and a great friend to the Museum. His life and legacy will be remembered.

We were also sad to learn of the passing of legendary pilot Bob Hoover. The Museum’s John and Adrienne Mars Director, J.R. “Jack” Dailey, wrote, “Bob was an aviation legend, a role-model to generations of pilots, a friend to this Museum, and a gentleman to all who knew him.” 

And within the last few weeks, we lost astronaut Piers Sellers, pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin, and the galactic princess Carrie Fisher.

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia Reexamined

We learned a lot this year about the spacecraft that took Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong to the Moon. We scanned the spacecraft in 3D. In doing so, we discovered and documented handwriting from its original occupants scribbled on the inside of the command module. And, more recently, we moved Columbia, for the first time since 1976, to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Stratospheric Explorer Alan Eustace’s Suit Goes on Display

This December, we placed the suit that Alan Eustace wore on his record-breaking freefall jump on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Eustace jumped from an altitude of 41,419 meters (135,890 feet) in October 2014 to capture the world record—previously held by Felix Baumgartner. Eustace was onsite for the unveiling.

New Exhibitions Feature Striking Imagery

This year we opened several new exhibitions including A New Moon Rises: Views from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. The exhibition featured striking images of the Moon and revealed a surprisingly dynamic celestial neighbor. 

We also opened Art of the Airport Tower from Museum photographer Carolyn Russo. The breathtaking photography in this exhibition explored the form and function of air traffic control towers throughout aviation history. It is now travelling the country.

Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh Airport, Scotland, United Kingdom (EDI/EGPH) - Image from Art of the Airport Tower

100 Years of the U.S. Coast Guard & the Sikorksy HH-52A Seaguard

This year we celebrated the centennial of Coast Guard aviation by collecting and showcasing the Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard. It took the Museum 11 years to acquire this Coast Guard helicopter, but the wait was well worth it. The Museum’s Seaguard has an extensive history that highlights the variety of services provided by the Coast Guard.

Neil Armstrong Gloves and Helmet Go On Display

In July, we placed Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 helmet and extravehicular activity (EVA) gloves on public display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. The move is just the first step in a larger conservation project for the famous spacesuit.

Big Year in Space

This was a big year for space exploration and study. Juno arrived at Jupiter, astronaut Scott Kelly’s yearlong mission on the International Space Station officially ended, our scientists announced that Mercury was shrinking, and from SpaceX to Blue Origin we witnessed rockets returning to Earth.

Juno Mission to Jupiter

Artist rendering of Juno. Image: NASA

As you countdown to 2017 this evening, we wish you the happiest of New Years and the hope that 2017 brings us more discoveries, exploration, cool science, and innovative technology.