Now that the kiddos are getting a bit bigger – or maybe we’re just getting more of a handle on this parenting thing – we’ve been having a blast seeking out some of the more special events and opportunities in our area. Living in D.C., there’s always another event or exhibit right around the corner, and there’s no way we can get to them all. But we do try to make it to the coolest, most unique things – like “Apollo on the Move,” a one-day event at the Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum) out near Dulles International Airport.
The “Apollo on the Move” event was a really unique opportunity to see the restoration hangar at Udvar-Hazy. The restoration hangar is usually closed to the public, but on Saturday the doors were flung open to anyone who wanted to file through and see all of the restoration projects in progress – including the command module from Apollo 11! Steve and I are both fascinated by the Apollo program, so we obviously couldn’t miss a chance to see the command module up close, having a little work done.
Some shorter people were less enthused, but they’ll grow to appreciate it in time. We didn’t get to spend too much time gawking at the command module, because there were many other people pressing up to see it as well. We were glad that we got to the museum early – when we arrived at the restoration hangar, there were only about twenty people ahead of us in line waiting to go in (others were already inside) but by the time we got out, the line numbers had multiplied many times over.
After checking out the Apollo project, we spent a few minutes looking at the other projects on the restoration floor. I can’t wait to see this plane when it’s all fixed up!
Then we left the restoration hangar and spent a bit of time visiting our other favorites. First stop – the space shuttle Discovery! No matter how many times we visit, it never gets old.
It’s always so awe-inspiring – a true testament to human ingenuity. Even the little miss was mildly impressed, which is really saying something.
The little dude was more impressed than his sister. He’s been here before, but the last time we visited, he was much smaller – about sixteen months old, as opposed to almost two (old man!) – and he was definitely much more engaged with the space this time. He practically jumped out of the backpack when he saw the aircraft as we walked into the main museum, and he was looking around, eyes popping out, chattering the entire time. Maybe he’s a future engineer?
After a good long visit with Discovery, we meandered out into the main part of the hangar and checked out the Concorde and some of the other particularly cool exhibits. I was especially interested in the WWII-era fighter planes, having just finished Code Talker, a memoir of one of the Navajo code talkers who were so instrumental in winning the Pacific War. The Smithsonian had a section of Japanese fighter planes from WWII, and I wondered if any of them were the same models that Chester Nez wrote about fearing so intensely during the battle of Guadalcanal.
We walked all the way to the back corner of the hangar, which we don’t usually do, and saw this little beauty. Based on the livery – reading “Byrd Antarctic Expedition” – I’m guessing (couldn’t find the explanatory placard) that this plane may have taken part in Operation Highjump in 1946-47. So cool! I was intrigued – I’ve been particularly interested in Antarctica lately. It’s certainly not in the cards for the near future, but I’d love to visit someday.
The landing gear appeared to be sleds. For landing on ice?!
There was another cool restoration project going on right on the floor of the public hangar – the control car for the Goodyear blimp. That was fun to see, as well.
Such a fun morning outing! Udvar-Hazy is always a blast – we love bringing visitors out there – but it was so special to see the restoration hangar and to get a close look at Apollo 11.
Have you ever gotten onto the restoration floor at a favorite museum?