Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and National Museum of American History

Started our day at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum! dsc08932

We explored the Wright Brothers section and strolled through the museum before the guided tour. We learnt so much on the guided tour! Here’s a snippet of it.

It started with Wright Cycle Co. Wilbur Wright read about birds and kites. He was very interested and read everything about flight which got Orville interested.  Experimenting and tinkering, building and flying kites.

Wright Kite 1899

Kitty Hawk was where they went to test out planes as there was good wind and not a lot of people. The 1901 plane did not have a lot of success.

1901 plane

The glider was redesigned and in 1903 the Wright Flyer was built which had an engine.

Linen on the Wright Flyer is restored, other things are the original

During the first flight Wilbur crashed the plane then it was repaired and a few days later Orville flew it. He was airborne for 59 seconds!

After several years, they went back to Daton to build a flyer that can be flown repeatedly.

In 1927, Charles Lindberg flew solo from New York to Paris on the Spirit of St Louis NX 211 plane.

Spirit of St Louis

Lindberg from Minnesota who was obsessed with flying enrolled in air force to learn to fly then became an air mail pilot. It was a hazardous job back then. A hotel owner (Orteg) posed a prize for someone or a group of people to fly across the Atlantic. Using money from business people in St Louis and his own savings; he commissioned building of the aircraft. It was a customised plane which included adding a gas tank between cockpit and nose. Lindberg flew from the most eastern point in America across the Atlantic with only a compass and estimated course along the way. 33 hours and 33 minutes after take off, he landed in Paris using a single engine airplane. He got mobbed when he landed!

Prior to Lindberg some other people had flown across the Atlantic but not solo. There were multiple pilots and stops between multiple points. X in the NX 211 is experiment. The R in NR 211 stands for research.


Missartoq named by an Eskimo little boy means fly like a big bird.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo trans Atlantic in the Vega in 1932. She made it 2/3 of way around the world, last stop New Guinea but was lost across the Pacific because navigational issues etc.

The Vega

The first woman to fly around the world was Jennifer Mare in 1964 ]

Previously African Americans were allowed to go to pilot school. They ended up becoming really good as bomber escorts and were known as the Teskegee Airmen. Bomber flyers would request them specifically. Teskegee Airmen painted the rails of planes red to let the enemy know they were there.

In 1915 was the first attempted air postal service but it failed. It was really in 1928 where the congress decided to incentivise flying air mail to companies. Then came the commercial decision to fly passengers with passengers sitting in cargohold in mail sacks! Imagine that!

In the late 1920s was the development of passenger airplanes with seats. TWA plane (8873) with six seats was the first passenger airplane.

TWA plane

Boeing 247D (United Airlines) can hold up to 14 passengers and was the first of modern airplanes.

Boeing 247D (United Airlines)

Though by the 1930s everyone wanted to get the Douglas DC3 (Eastern Airlines). It could fly more passengers. Donald Douglas later merged it with Boeing.

Douglas DC3

Nurses were the first flight attendants.

The Tandem Voyager had the longest wing span of all the planes in the museum. The idea of the voyager came from a sketch on a napkin over lunch. It was an airplane to fly across the world non stop and it took 9 days and 3 minutes. It was flewn by the designer (one of the brothers) and his girlfriend.

Tandem Voyager

X1 (original) first airplane (orange) to break speed of sound created in 1946. It was the shape of a bullet as bullets can break speed of sound. The British actually built first prototype M1 but because of the war they stopped. The US took over. It was designed to break the speed of sound and was flewn by Chuck Jagger in Oct 1947.


The X15 (number 1 navy blue) was shaped like a bullet as well. It flew the highest at the time. Early astronaut Neil Armstrong was an X15 pilot. The skin of the X15 was built out of nickel aluminium alloy to withstand heat. It flew 67 miles above the earth.


Spaceship 1 was built to prove you can launch something into space and reuse it. It flew 70 miles above the earth. There’s another one that is now being built to take passengers into space.

Spaceship 1

Sputnik 1 (silver ball) was launched by the Russians into space. Unfortunately, Sputnik 2 with Lyca the dog did not make it.

Sputnik 1
Little rocket launched by the USA after Sputnik

So this all essentially builds up to July 1969 where the USA was first to land on the moon using the Luna module. 6 of the descent stages are still in the moon.dsc08860

Apollo 11 had to be landed in July 1969 by astronauts as computer malfunction. Last astronauts to land on the moon was in 1972.

And that my friends is the start of air and space history as we know it! This was extremely fascinating for me as I love travel and to understand the history of airplanes and see how far air travel has come since is thrilling! I’m excited to see how much farther air space travel will go in the future.

We got lunch at the food court then back to explore the museum sections that weren’t covered in our tour which was mainly the space and science section.

Next stop for the day was the National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

Here we learned about the different countries that initially owned the states and read about the about the Declaration of Independence.dsc08944

It was also interesting to see the information on the formation of the United States of America and the Civil War that was involved. There was also a large display and information about World War 2.

We only stayed there for a few hours, till closing time.

Then we spent the evening walking around and admiring the Washington Monument, World War 2 Memorial and Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool by day and sunset. We walked by the Albert Einstein Memorial on the way to dinner and had to wait for a whole bunch of school children just to see the memorial.

We had dinner at El Chalan, a Peruvian restaurant. Shared the Lomo Saltado and Cabrito Norteno (the goat stew) washed down with a delicious cocktail each. Both dishes were very tasty, comfort food style dishes. Our meals came with a complimentary starter of bread and ‘ahi’ (spicy spread/sauce made of habaneroes). This was finished off with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream American Dream for dessert in our hotel room.


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