National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

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The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) of the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 holds the largest collection of historic aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 and spacecraft
Spacecraft
A spacecraft or spaceship is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight. Spacecraft are used for a variety of purposes, including communications, earth observation, meteorology, navigation, planetary exploration and transportation of humans and cargo....

 in the world. It was established in 1976. Located in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, United States, it is a center for research into the history and science of aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

 and spaceflight
Spaceflight
Spaceflight is the act of travelling into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft which may, or may not, have humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the Russian Soyuz program, the U.S. Space shuttle program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station...

, as well as planet
Planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

ary science and terrestrial geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and geophysics
Geophysics
Geophysics is the physics of the Earth and its environment in space; also the study of the Earth using quantitative physical methods. The term geophysics sometimes refers only to the geological applications: Earth's shape; its gravitational and magnetic fields; its internal structure and...

. Almost all space and aircraft on display are originals or backups to the originals. It is the second-most popular of the Smithsonian museums and operates an annex, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum 's annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County, Virginia, United States....

, at Dulles International Airport. The museum currently conducts restoration of its collection at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility
Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility
The Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility is located in Suitland, Maryland, USA. The facility, also nicknamed "Silver Hill", is where the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum restores aircraft, spacecraft, and other artifacts.It is named in honor of...

 in Suitland, Maryland.

Architecture


Because of the museum's close proximity to the United States Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

, the Smithsonian wanted a building that would be architecturally impressive but would not stand out too boldly against the Capitol building. St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

-based architect Gyo Obata
Gyo Obata
Gyo Obata is a significant American architect, the son of renowned painter Chiura Obata and his wife, Haruko Obata, a floral designer. In 1955, he co-founded global architectural firm HOK . He lives in St. Louis, Missouri and still works in HOK's St. Louis office...

 of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum
Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum
HOK is a global architecture, interiors, engineering, planning and consulting firm. HOK is the largest U.S.-based architecture-engineering firm and the "No. 1 role model for sustainable and high-performance design." HOK also is the second-largest interior design firm...

 accepted the challenge and designed the museum as four simple marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

-encased cubes containing the smaller and more theatrical exhibits, connected by three spacious steel-and-glass atria which house the larger exhibits such as missiles, airplanes and spacecraft. The mass of the museum echoes the National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden is a national art museum, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, in Washington, DC...

 across the National Mall
National Mall
The National Mall is an open-area national park in downtown Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The National Mall is a unit of the National Park Service , and is administered by the National Mall and Memorial Parks unit...

, and uses the same pink Tennessee marble
Tennessee marble
Tennessee marble is a type of crystalline limestone found primarily in East Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. Long esteemed by architects and builders for its pinkish-gray color and the ease with which it is polished, this stone has been used in the construction of numerous notable...

 as the National Gallery. Built by Gilbane Building Company, the museum was completed in 1976. The west glass wall of the building is used for the installation of airplanes, functioning as a giant door.

History



The museum was originally called the National Air Museum when formed on August 12, 1946 by an act of Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

, some pieces in the National Air and Space Museum collection date back to the 1876 Centennial Exposition
Centennial Exposition
The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 10 to November 10, 1876, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. It was officially...

 in Philadelphia after which the Chinese Imperial Commission donated a group of kites to the Smithsonian after Smithsonian Secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird convinced exhibiters that shipping them home would be too costly. The Stringfellow
John Stringfellow
John Stringfellow was born in Sheffield, England and is known for his work on the Aerial Steam Carriage with William Samuel Henson....

 steam engine intended for aircraft was accession
Accession
Accession has different definitions depending upon its application. In Property law, it is a mode of acquiring property that involves the addition of value to property through labor or the addition of new materials. In English Common law, the added value belonged to the original property's owner,...

ed into the collection in 1889, the first piece actively acquired by the Smithsonian now in the current NASM collection.

After the establishment of the museum, there was no one building that could hold all the items to be displayed, many obtained from the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 and United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 collections of domestic and captured aircraft from World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Some pieces were on display in the Arts and Industries Building
Arts and Industries Building
The Arts and Industries Building is the second oldest of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Initially named the National Museum, it was built to provide the Smithsonian with its first proper facility for public display of its growing collections.The building, designed...

, some were stored in the Aircraft Building (also known as the "Tin Shed", a large temporary metal shed in the Smithsonian Castle's south yard. Larger missiles and rockets were displayed outdoors in what was known as Rocket Row. The shed housed at large Martin bomber, a LePere fighter-bomber, and an Aeromarine 39B
Aeromarine 39B
|-References:...

 floatplane
Floatplane
A floatplane is a type of seaplane, with slender pontoons mounted under the fuselage; only the floats of a floatplane normally come into contact with water, with the fuselage remaining above water...

. Still, much of the collection remained in storage due to a lack of display space.

The combination of the large numbers of aircraft donated to the Smithsonian after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the need for hangar and factory space for the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 drove the Smithsonian to look for its own facility to store and restore aircraft. The current Garber Facility was ceded to the Smithsonian by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is a bi-county agency that administers parks and planning in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland.-History:...

 in 1952 after the curator Paul E. Garber
Paul E. Garber
Paul Edward Garber was the first head of the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. With his work and effort, the most complete collection of historical aircraft in the world was gathered and preserved...

 spotted the wooded area from the air. Bulldozers from Fort Belvoir
Fort Belvoir
Fort Belvoir is a United States Army installation and a census-designated place in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States. Originally, it was the site of the Belvoir plantation. Today, Fort Belvoir is home to a number of important United States military organizations...

 and prefabricated buildings from the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 kept the initial costs low.

The space race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

 in the 1950s and 1960s led to the renaming of the museum to the National Air and Space Museum, and finally congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new exhibition hall, which opened July 1, 1976 at the height of the United States Bicentennial
United States Bicentennial
The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to the historical events leading up to the creation of the United States as an independent republic...

 festivities under the leadership of Director Michael Collins
Michael Collins (astronaut)
Michael Collins is a former American astronaut and test pilot. Selected as part of the third group of fourteen astronauts in 1963, he flew in space twice. His first spaceflight was Gemini 10, in which he and command pilot John Young performed two rendezvous with different spacecraft and Collins...

, who had flown to the Moon on Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in 2003, funded by a private donation.

The museum will receive several artifacts, including a former camera, that were removed from the Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

 and returned to Earth after Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

 mission STS-125
STS-125
STS-125, or HST-SM4 , was the fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope .Launch occurred on 11 May 2009 at 2:01 pm EDT...

. The museum also holds the backup mirror for the Hubble which, unlike the one that was launched, was ground to the correct shape. There were once plans for it to be installed to the Hubble itself, but plans to return it to Earth were scrapped after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on February 1, 2003, when shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, STS-107, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the death of all seven crew members...

 in 2003; the mission was re-considered as too risky.

The Smithsonian has also been promised the International Cometary Explorer
International Cometary Explorer
The International Cometary Explorer spacecraft was originally known as International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 satellite, launched August 12, 1978. It was part of the ISEE international cooperative program between NASA and ESRO/ESA to study the interaction between the Earth's magnetic field and the...

, which is currently in a solar orbit that occasionally brings it back to Earth, should NASA attempt to recover it.

Controversies


Controversy erupted in March 1994 over a proposed commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. The centerpiece of the exhibit was the Enola Gay
Enola Gay
Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named after Enola Gay Tibbets, mother of the pilot, then-Colonel Paul Tibbets. On August 6, 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb as a weapon of war...

, the B-29 bomber that dropped the A-bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

. Veterans' groups, led by the Air Force Association
Air Force Association
The Air Force Association is an independent, 501 non-profit, civilian education organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia...

 and The Retired Officers Association, argued strongly that the exhibit's inclusion of Japanese accounts and photographs of victims politicized the exhibit and insulted U.S. airmen. Also disputed was the predicted number of U.S. casualties that would have resulted from an invasion of Japan, had that been necessary, after the museum director, Martin O. Harwit, unilaterally reduced the figure by 75% on January 9, 1995, at the height of the dispute. On January 18 the American Legion
American Legion
The American Legion is a mutual-aid organization of veterans of the United States armed forces chartered by the United States Congress. It was founded to benefit those veterans who served during a wartime period as defined by Congress...

 called for a congressional investigation of the matter, and on January 24, 1995, 81 members of Congress called for Harwit's resignation. Harwit was forced to resign on May 2. Although the exhibit was "radically reduced" and criticized by the New York Times as "the most diminished display in Smithsonian history," the Air and Space Museum placed the forward fuselage of the Enola Gay and other items on display as part of a non-political historical exhibition. Within a year, it had drawn more than a million visitors, making it the most popular special exhibition in the history of the NASM, and when the exhibition closed in May 1998, it had drawn nearly four million visitors.

On October 8, 2011, the museum was temporarily closed after demonstrators associated with the Occupy D.C.
Occupy Wall Street
Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing series of demonstrations initiated by the Canadian activist group Adbusters which began September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City's Wall Street financial district...

 demonstration attempted to enter the museum. Some protesters were peppered sprayed by museum security after a guard was pinned against a wall. One woman was arrested.

Directors


Carl W. Mitman was the first head of the museum, under the title of Assistant to the Secretary for the National Air Museum, heading the museum from 1946 until his retirement from the Smithsonian in 1952.

The following have been, or acted as, director of the museum:
  • Philip S. Hopkins, 1958-1964
  • S. Paul Johnston, 1964-1969
  • Frank A. Taylor (acting), 1969-1971
  • Michael Collins
    Michael Collins (astronaut)
    Michael Collins is a former American astronaut and test pilot. Selected as part of the third group of fourteen astronauts in 1963, he flew in space twice. His first spaceflight was Gemini 10, in which he and command pilot John Young performed two rendezvous with different spacecraft and Collins...

    , 1971–1978;
  • Melvin B. Zisfein (acting), 1978-1979
  • Noel W. Hinners, 1979-1982
  • Walter J. Boyne
    Walter J. Boyne
    Walter J. Boyne is a retired United States Air Force officer, combat veteran, aviation historian, and author of more than 50 books and over 1,000 magazine articles...

     (acting 1982–1983, director 1983-1986)
  • James C. Tyler (acting), 1986-1987
  • Martin O. Harwit, 1987-1995
  • Donald D. Engen, 1996-1999
  • John R. Dailey, 2000–present

See also

  • Continuum
    Continuum (sculpture)
    Continuum is a public artwork by American sculptor Charles O. Perry located in front of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, United States.-Description:...

     a sculpture that sits on the south side of the building entrance.
  • Delta Solar
    Delta Solar
    Delta Solar is a public artwork by Venezuelan sculptor Alejandro Otero located outside of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, United States. Delta Solar is meant to pay homage to modern technology and the Inca sun cult.-Description:...

     a sculpture that sits on the west side of the building.
  • Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History
    Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History
    The Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History, also known as the Lindbergh Chair, is a one-year senior fellowship hosted by the U.S. National Air and Space Museum , to assist a scholar in the research and composition of a book about aerospace history...

    ; NASM-sponsored senior scholarship

External links