If you are a fan of museums the Smithsonian is a name to conjure with. We visited the Air and Space Museum today and were suitably impressed with a great selection of iconic items. The Spirit of St Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, bits of moon rock, the Wright Flyer – lots of cool stuff.
The Museum also has a great hands-on section describing the physics of flight. The major bit of educational information we walked away with: in space you are not weightless, you’re just falling at the same speed as all the stuff around you.
One of the startling things about the Museum is not so much what is there, but what is not. There are piles of cool stuff about the glory years of flight. There’s a depth of information about the moon landings and the space stations. Then sometime in the mid-1980s the whole thing comes to a sort of incremental, juddering halt. Suddenly there’s nothing new or exciting. There’s unmanned drones and clever windows on the Boeing 787 which go dark without shades – but that’s not really up there with the first flight or stepping on to the Moon. You watch JFK’s speech to Congress asking for the funds required to get a man on the Moon and long for someone to do something as visionary today. Doesn’t matter that the motivation was simply to beat the USSR, it was simply a big, huge audacious goal. It was also a goal they brought to fruition.
One great thing about the Smithsonian is that it’s free. A bad thing is that the only food available is an enormous McDonalds. However, just next door, and also free, is the Museum of the American Indian which has an amazing cafe with food from all the major Indian Nations. Sadly, entirely through my own poor choice, I can confirm that buffalo burger tastes much like beef burger. The other, far more appetising, options mean we’ll be going back another day.