NASM Annex Celebrates First Year
The National Air and Space Museum is throwing a special first
anniversary celebration Saturday, Dec. 11, at its Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Center to thank visitors who have made the Chantilly, VA
facility the state's most popular museum site.
The Udvar-Hazy (pronounced OOD-var HAH-zee) Center, a companion
to the Smithsonian museum's flagship building on the National Mall
in Washington, has welcomed more than 1.6 million people since it
opened on December 15th, 2003.
A highlight of the next month's anniversary celebration will be
the rare joint appearance by the two men who commanded space
shuttle Enterprise: veteran astronauts Fred Haise (Apollo 13) and
Joe Engle (shuttle missions STS-2 and STS-51I). Enterprise, used
for approach and landing tests in the 1970s, is the centerpiece of
the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, which has been accessible to
Udvar-Hazy Center visitors since Nov. 1. Haise and Engle will
discuss their storied careers and greet the public throughout the
The museum will also offer free tickets to the newest
edge-of-your-seat IMAX flight film, "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red
Flag," whose opening at the Udvar-Hazy Center coincides with the
celebration. A free showing will be held at 1030 local. A limited
number of free passes to other showings will be distributed during
Anniversary festivities also will include holiday performances
by Northern Virginia high school bands, behind-the-scenes
presentations by restoration specialists, prize giveaways, a
space-themed parade for visitors in costume, "storytimes" for
children, meet-the-curator opportunities, book signings, holiday
shopping in the museum store and free birthday cake.
"So much goes into creating an experience like the Udvar-Hazy
Center, but only the public can tell us whether we've done it
right," museum director Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey said. "This is our
way of showing how much we appreciate the remarkable support we've
In time for the celebration, an additional 21 aircraft will be
added to the original 82 displayed in the Udvar-Hazy Center's huge
aviation hanger. The new arrivals 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 US president, Dwight D.
Also new are a dozen interactive kiosks that allow visitors to
explore in detail, in seamless 360-degree views, the exteriors and
interiors of the center's aircraft and large space artifacts.
The facility is the subject of a new lavishly illustrated book,
"Building America's Hangar: The Design and Construction of the
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center," by Lin Ezell, who will be signing
copies on Dec. 11.
The McDonnell Space Hangar features 112 large space artifacts in
addition to the recently refurbished Enterprise, including a
floor-to-ceiling Redstone missile, the Gemini VI spacecraft and a
giant ring segment from a Saturn V rocket that was never built. An
array of cruise missiles, satellites and space telescopes are
suspended from the hangar's trusses.
The aviation hangar is home to some of the museum's largest
aircraft, including a Concorde, the "Dash 80" original prototype
for the Boeing 707, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, a Lockheed
SR-71 Blackbird and the Boeing 307 Stratoliner?all displayed at
floor-level. Lighter aircraft are suspended from above and can be
viewed up close from rising "skywalks."
Thousands of smaller artifacts, including models, cameras,
engines, armament and popular culture collections, are exhibited
throughout the Udvar-Hazy Center.
The displays in the aviation and space hangars will continue to
grow in coming years, with the center eventually housing some 200
aircraft and 200 large space artifacts.
A second phase of construction, including a restoration hangar,
archives and storage facility, is planned and will move forward
based on fund-raising. The first phase of Udvar-Hazy Center
construction was funded by private sources only.
Although admission to the center is free, there is a $12 fee for
parking. The museum operates a shuttle bus between its building on
the National Mall and the Udvar-Hazy Center. A roundtrip ticket for
the shuttle bus is $7 (the price will increase to $12 as of Jan. 1,
2005), with discounts available for groups.
The public's tremendous interest in the Udvar-Hazy Center led to
some delays for visitors arriving during the first days of
operation. Long waits have since been alleviated in part because of
additional parking and an expanded information system that includes
additional signs on area roadways and a new low-watt AM radio