WASHINGTON — Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in D.C. are in for a treat. The museum will show off its brand-new birthday present as it turns 40 on Friday.
The Air and Space Museum is a crowd favorite with 7 to 8 million visitors per year. And for 40 years, the iconic entrance to the museum — the exhibit area where visitors can see planes that are suspended from the ceiling — hasn’t changed until now. Since the museum’s opening on July 1, 1976, it has looked pretty much the same.
But just in time for the museum’s 40th birthday, the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall has gotten a major makeover. That’s thanks to a donation by Boeing, said the museum’s aeronautics curator Bob van der Linden.
“This has given us the opportunity to redo our lobby, because this is more than a gallery, more than a hall. It’s the first and last thing our visitors see,” he said.
He says the museum is a “museum of milestones.” Besides some amazing pieces of flight history — such as the Mercury capsule in which John Glenn orbited earth back in 1962 — also on display is the studio model of the USS Enterprise from “Star Trek.”
“It’s the original ‘StarTrek’ Enterprise from the TV show,” van der Linden confirmed.
But other highlights in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall include the renewed exhibit of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, which he flew on a solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927, and the second lunar module that was made, but did not fly in space. Van der Linden says it was used for test purposes.
His history with the museum runs deep as he was actually a volunteer at the museum when it first opened in 1976.
“I remember standing there in the gallery right before it opened and was wondering what was going to happen in the next 10, 20, 30 40 years, and now we know,” van der Linden said.
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