Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum Turns 35

USA Today: On July 1, 1976, as part of the nation's Bicentennial celebration, Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum welcomed visitors to its modern building on the National Mall. Over the years, hordes have eyeballed the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, Friendship 7 and the Apollo 11 command module. It is billed as the most popular museum in the world (amazing, since legendary tourist draws such as the Louvre in Paris are so much bigger).

As of May, the museum says it has welcomed 303,674,128 million (!!!!!) visitors to its two sites (the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened outside D.C. near Dulles International Airport in 2003 and now is the most popular museum in Virginia).

The 35th anniversary at the main museum flagship includes the Imax movie that premiered on opening day. To Fly! will be showing at 1976 prices: 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. At 2 p.m., curators Michael Neufeld and Alex Spencer will discuss their book, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography. It will be on a live webcast on the museum site, so you can hear it even if you can't be in D.C.

If you can't go, visit the 35th anniversary website, which includes congratulatory messages from Apollo 11 astronaut and the mist Air and Space director, Michael Collins -- even from Elmo of TV's Sesame Street. Anyone can post memories of trips to the museum. Seeing To Fly! -- and feeling as if I were soaring over the world -- would be my exhilarating experience.

The Air and Space facilities host the world's largest collection of historic aircraft, spacecraft and flight artifacts. There are 22 exhibition galleries in the flagship building and two exhibition hangars at the Udvar-Hazy Center. A third hangar is due at year's end. Admission is free at both, but expect to pay $15 for parking at Udvar-Hazy.


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