National Air and Space Museum’s Journey Toward 2025

Appearing next month in the NASA Alumni Newsletter.

Walking on the Washington, D.C. Mall is an inspiring experience for all citizens. One might be inspired by the many memories and great institutions of our American people. Nestled as one of the most visited museums of the world is the National Air and Space Museum, just southwest of our Nation’s Capital. The museum had a partial reopening on October 14, 2022, with the west wing of its building unveiling eight new and renovated galleries. However, the east wing remains closed for renovation. The next phase of the renovation, which includes the east wing, is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

I have traveled to D.C. and have seen the entirety of the previous exhibits on display. Like many in the aerospace profession, every time I go to D.C. I visit the museum. I love seeing the new exhibits. The best part of the museum is not the exhibits themselves, but watching people from all over the world who are amazed. Here, people say, ‘we did that?’ often expressing surprise at what was accomplished in the approximately last 120 years of flight.

What is new in the western third of the museum includes:

  1. Destination Moon: This exhibition features numerous icons of space history, such as the Apollo 11 command module Columbia and Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit, both of which have undergone extensive conservation in recent years.
  2. Jackie Cochran’s T-38: On display is a Northrop T-38A Talon flown by aviator Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, who set eight world records for speed, altitude, and distance flying in 1961 with this T-38.
  3. Walking On Other Worlds: An interactive experience that provides a seven-minute “tour” of seven different celestial bodies, offering an immersive media exhibit with a nearly 360-degree screen.
  4. Nation of Speed: A collection of vehicles built for speed.
  5. Diverse Stories: A broader story of aviation and space, like Neal Loving’s red Loving WR-3 air racer, a parachute used by Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick, and airline uniforms worn by pioneering women pilots like Emily Howell Warner, Cynthia Berkeley, and Bonnie Tiburzi.

I encourage everyone to plan a D.C. visit to see the grand opening of the entire renovated museum in 2025. It is important to make advance entry reservations before you go. A limited number of same day entry reservations can be made on their website. It is entirely free.

Armstrong’s Lunar Suit (Photo – Miller).
View of the new west gallery from the second floor (Photo – Miller).