Located in Washington, DC, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, also called the NASM, is one of the most popular museums in the US welcoming over ten million visitors every year. Admission to the museum is free for all visitors.
The NASM contains the largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft in the world, such as the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, which was the first aircraft to complete a nonstop flight from New York to Paris, the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the only portion of the Apollo 11 spacecraft to return to earth, as well as a moon rock brought back from the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 the public is allowed to touch.
In addition to the numerous exhibition galleries about aviation and spaceflight history, astronomy, and planetary science, the museum features an IMAX Theater, a planetarium, and a public observatory. Besides, daily tours are offered as often as educational activities for all age groups. A second site of the NASM is located near Dulles International Airport, which opened in 2003. Not only it is the largest air and space museum complex in the world, but also it is home to the Discovery space shuttle, which was retired after completing its final mission in March 2011.
The NASM opened in 1976 and was established in 1946, back then called the National Air Museum. After the establishment of the museum, there was a lack of space regarding the numerous items to be displayed including collections of aircraft from World War I from the United States Army and United States Navy. Thus, much of the collection remained in storage.
The space race in the mid-twentieth Century led to the renaming of the museum and finally to the construction of the new exhibition hall, which opened in July 1976.
In 2014, the NASM announced a two-year renovation of its main entrance hall "Milestones of Flight”. As the renovation to the central exhibition space was funded by a donation from Boeing, the hall was renamed "Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall” and reopened in July 2016. The redesigned area now allows room for the placement of new exhibits, which includes The Enterprise from the Star Trek television series.
How to get there
The NASM is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on Independence Avenue and 6th Street, SW. Metered street parking as well as parking garage options are limited. The easiest way to get to the museum is via public transportation.
The Museum is near Metrorail stops on the yellow, green, orange, and blue lines. The closest stop is at L'Enfant Plaza at Maryland Avenue and 7th Street. Metrobus stops are located right outside the museum entrance along 7th Street, SW, and on Independence Avenue, SW.
Generally, free street parking is restricted to two hours only. Limited metered parking spaces close to the museum are available. Limited, free, day-long parking is available south of the Lincoln Memorial as well as in lots south of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Nevertheless, the use of the public transit system is highly recommended.