National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution called the Air and Space Museum, is a museum in Washington, D. C, it was established in 1946 as the National Air Museum and opened its main building on the National Mall near L'Enfant Plaza in 1976. In 2016, the museum saw 7.5 million visitors, making it the third most visited museum in the world, the most visited museum in the United States. The museum contains the Apollo 11 command module, the Friendship 7 capsule, flown by John Glenn, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, the model of the starship Enterprise used in the science fiction television show Star Trek: The Original Series, the Wright brothers' airplane near the entrance; the National Air and Space Museum is a center for research into the history and science of aviation and spaceflight, as well as planetary science and terrestrial geology and geophysics. All space and aircraft on display are originals or the original backup craft.
It operates an annex, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, at Dulles International Airport, which opened in 2003 and itself encompasses 760,000 square feet; the museum conducts restoration of its collection at the Paul E. Garber Preservation and Storage Facility in Suitland, while moving such restoration and archival activities into the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, a part of the Udvar-Hazy annex facilities as of 2014; because of the museum's close proximity to the United States Capitol, the Smithsonian wanted a building that would be architecturally impressive but would not stand out too boldly against the Capitol building. St. Louis-based architect Gyo Obata of HOK designed the museum as four simple marble-encased cubes containing the smaller and more theatrical exhibits, connected by three spacious steel-and-glass atria which house the larger exhibits such as missiles and spacecraft; the mass of the museum is similar to the National Gallery of Art across the National Mall, uses the same pink Tennessee marble as the National Gallery.
Built by Gilbane Building Company, the museum was completed in 1976. The west glass wall of the building is used for the installation of airplanes, functioning as a giant door; the museum's prominent site on the National Mall once housed the city's armory, during the Civil War, Armory Square Hospital nursed the worst wounded cases who were transported to Washington after battles. The Air and Space Museum was called the National Air Museum when formed on August 12, 1946 by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman; some pieces in the National Air and Space Museum collection date back to the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia after which the Chinese Imperial Commission donated a group of kites to the Smithsonian after Smithsonian Secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird convinced exhibiters that shipping them home would be too costly. The Stringfellow steam engine intended for aircraft was added to the collection in 1889, the first piece acquired by the Smithsonian now in the current NASM collection.
After the establishment of the museum, there was no one building that could hold all the items to be displayed, many obtained from the United States Army and United States Navy collections of domestic and captured aircraft from World War I. Some pieces were on display in the Arts and Industries Building, some were stored in the Aircraft Building, a large temporary metal shed in the Smithsonian Castle's south yard. Larger missiles and rockets were displayed outdoors in; the shed housed a large Martin bomber, a LePere fighter-bomber, an Aeromarine 39B floatplane. Still, much of the collection remained in storage due to a lack of display space; the combination of the large numbers of aircraft donated to the Smithsonian after World War II and the need for hangar and factory space for the Korean War drove the Smithsonian to look for its own facility to store and restore aircraft. The current Garber Facility was ceded to the Smithsonian by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1952 after the curator Paul E. Garber spotted the wooded area from the air.
Bulldozers from Fort Belvoir and prefabricated buildings from the United States Navy kept the initial costs low. The space race in the 1950s and 1960s led to the renaming of the museum to the National Air and Space Museum, congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new exhibition hall, which opened July 1, 1976 at the height of the United States Bicentennial festivities under the leadership of Director Michael Collins, who had flown to the Moon on Apollo 11; the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in 2003, funded by a private donation; the museum received COSTAR, the corrective optics instrument installed in the Hubble Space Telescope during its first servicing mission, when it was removed and returned to Earth after Space Shuttle mission STS-125. The museum holds the backup mirror for the Hubble which, unlike the one, launched, was ground to the correct shape. There were once plans for it to be installed to the Hubble itself, but plans to return the satellite to Earth were scrapped after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.
The Smithsonian has been promised the International Cometary Explorer, in a solar orbit that brings it back to Earth, should NASA attempt to recover it. The Air and Space Museum announced a two-year renovation of its main entrance hall, "Milestones of Flight" in April 2014; the renovation to the main hall was funded by a $30 mil