James S. McDonnell Space Hangar to open at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy
Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Center will get their first chance to explore the
remarkable holdings in its newly filled space hangar on Monday,
Although the Udvar-Hazy (pronounced OOD-var HAH-zee) Center in
Chantilly (VA) opened to much acclaim last December, the
53,000-square-foot James S. McDonnell Space Hangar was inaccessible
because of the needed refurbishment of its centerpiece, Space
Shuttle Enterprise. With that project now completed, hundreds
of other artifacts have been installed in the exhibition hall, from
a 69-foot floor-to-ceiling Redstone missile to tiny "Anita," a
spider carried on Skylab for web formation experiments.
The hangar and its holdings illustrate the scope of space
exploration history as organized around four main themes: rocketry
and missiles; human spaceflight; application satellites and space
"The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has always been
known as the home of the icons of flight. The James S. McDonnell
Space Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center gives us the chance to share
much more of our vast collection as we present the story of space
exploration in richer detail," museum director Gen. J.R. "Jack"
A total of 113 large space artifacts are housed in the hangar.
The biggest and heaviest, including Enterprise, are an instrument
ring segment of a Saturn V rocket that was never built and a Space
Shuttle main engine are displayed at ground level. An array of
cruise missiles, satellites and space telescopes hangs from
The hangar features two elevated overlooks that allow visitors
to study suspended artifacts straight-on and ground-level displays
More than 500 smaller artifacts are exhibited in customized
cases throughout the hangar including advanced spacesuit
prototypes; research crystals formed in orbit; sounding rocket
payloads; space-themed toys from the 1950s and 1960s and even
borscht in tubes, prepared for Soviet cosmonauts.
The oldest artifact in the hangar, the Ritchey Grinding Machine,
dates back to the 1890s, when it was used to craft a 60-inch mirror
for a Wisconsin observatory telescope. The newest artifact is an
engineering model created by U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen as they
developed, for a class project, the PCSat communications satellite
launched in 2001 and still in orbit.
Many of the objects now in the space hangar had been in storage
for decades. A portion was previewed over the past months in the
Udvar-Hazy Center's aviation hangar.
The museum's unparalleled space collection is built on an
agreement that gives the Smithsonian first option to acquire any
equipment used and then retired by NASA. The collection includes
every retired American spacecraft that flew humans and returned
safely to Earth; every spacesuit used to walk on the moon and
backups or engineering models of nearly every major American
satellite or probe.
Space artifacts from other nations have been donated by
individuals and governments or are displayed on loan.
Other unique artifacts now exhibited in the McDonnell Space
- The manned maneuvering unit used for the first-ever untethered
- A film return capsule from the last Corona satellite spy
mission over the U.S.S.R.
- The flotation collar and bags used for the Apollo 11
- A Gemini paraglider research vehicle used to train for
potential ground landings
- Pegasus, the first aircraft-launched rocket booster to carry
satellites into space
- A form-fitting centrifuge seat made exclusively for
Mercury astronaut John Glenn
- A full-scale engineering prototype of the Mars Pathfinder
- A human-sized, NASA-built android used for 1960s spacesuit
- The Spartan 201 satellite, deployed for solar research during
five shuttle missions
The McDonnell Space Hangar is named for aerospace pioneer James
S. McDonnell, whose company built a number of pioneering aircraft
and both the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft, flown by the first
The museum plans to install additional artifacts in the hanger
over the next few years.
This fall, to mark the December 15 Udvar-Hazy Center's first
anniversary, 21 additional aircraft will be added to the 82
currently on display in the Udvar-Hazy Center's aviation hanger.
They include the Westland Lysander IIIA airplane, used for ferrying
secret agents in and out of enemy territory during World War II;
and the Bell H-13J, which, in 1957, became the first helicopter to
carry a U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The museum will celebrate the Udvar-Hazy Center's first
anniversary on Saturday, December 11. Visitors to the facility will
enjoy live entertainment, "story times" for children, free tickets
to the new IMAX film "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag," astronaut
appearances, book signings and behind-the-scenes presentations by
restoration and exhibits specialists.
Since its opening, the Udvar-Hazy Center has attracted more than
1.5 million visitors, making it the most popular museum site in
Although admission to the Udvar-Hazy Center is free, there is a
$12 fee for parking. The museum operates a shuttle bus between its
flagship building on the National Mall in Washington and the
Udvar-Hazy Center. A roundtrip ticket for the shuttle bus is $7
(the price will increase as of January 1, 2005), with discounts
available for groups.
The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall
in Washington (DC), home to John Glenn's Mercury spacecraft
Friendship 7, the Apollo 11 command module Columbia, an unflown
lunar module, the backup Skylab orbital workshop and a touchable
moonrock obtained during Apollo 17, is located at Sixth Street and
Independence Avenue S.W. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located
in Chantilly off Route 28 near Washington Dulles International
Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30
p.m. (Closed December 25.) and admission is free.