UPDATE, April 26, 2022: The Air and Space Museum on the National Mall is temporarily closed as part of an enormous, multiyear renovation. The first of eight new and madeover galleries as well as other public spaces and the Albert Einstein Planetarium are scheduled to open by the end of 2022. The rest of the facility will reopen in phases through 2025.
The National Air and Space Museum manages to tap into that most primordial of human impulses: the urge to fly. And it does so in multilayered fashion, mixing extraordinary artifacts with videos and hands-on exploration of displayed equipment.
The seeds of this museum were planted when the Smithsonian Institution acquired its first aeronautical objects in 1876: 20 kites from the Chinese Imperial Commission. By the time the National Air and Space Museum opened on the National Mall 100 years later, the collection had grown to tens of thousands of objects. Today, the inventory of historic aircraft and spacecraft artifacts numbers more than 66,000, the world’s largest such collection.
While the National Mall facility is closed for its massive renovation, the National Air and Space Museum’s second location, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center adjacent to Washington Dulles International Airport, remains open. The facility houses more than 3,000 artifacts, including around 200 airplanes.