While in Washington, we wanted to check out the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). The NASM is home to a variety of historically significant aircraft. As air and space geeks, it was heaven.
We wanted to check out both sites, but started with the location on the Mall. Right when you walk in, you can see two spaceplanes. My personal favorite is the X-15.
This research craft was flown in the Sixties. Three were built. One crashed, and the other is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. They set a number of records, and twice flew beyond the internationally recognized boundary into space (100 KM).
Across from the X-15 was the most recent spaceplane, SpaceShipOne. This was the first manned, non-government craft to enter space.
It was exciting to see something I followed make history among aircraft I read about in books, such as the X-1 (above), or The Spirit of Saint Louis.
Speaking of the X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier was neat to see.
Nearby was another early supersonic research craft, the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. It was the first aircraft to go twice the speed of sound.
On the floor was Columbia, the command module of Apollo XI.
The P-59 Airacomet was also in the entry gallery. This was the first American jet fighter. It was, however, an underperformer, and never saw combat.
The P-59 was replaced by the P-80 (later F-80) Shooting Star. During the Korean War, an F-80 won the first jet-to-jet engagement. The prototype was at the NASM.
Walking through the galleries, there is an impressive look at naval aviation. A number of aircraft from several years were represented, including an A-4.
I couldn’t get a good shot of the original Wright Flyer, but they did have one of the few remaining Wright bicycles on display.
A bicycle would later be the powerplant for the Gossamer Albatross.
This F-104 served as a chase plane for NASA, including the X-15 program.
The space gallery is dominated by a mock-up of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program (ASTP).
They had a reentry module from a Soyuz–the only one I’ve ever seen.
I was amused by the markings on the capsule. “Man Inside! Help!”
The space gallery actually had an early digital SLR. It was a Nikon film body mated to a Kodak image processor, doubling the size of the camera. Good thing there is no gravity there.
A traveling exhibit of the photography of Spirit and Opportunity included a full-scale mockup.
It was great to see all the significant aircraft. The only downside of the NASM is that it is a bit landlocked, with no room to grow. As a consequence, there is a limit to the size and quantity of aircraft they can house. However, the next day, we would get to see the solution to that problem.