Some things are just fun and fascinating to see. It was with that mindset we visited the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. Getting to see the Space Shuttle Discovery up close and personal was beyond fun and fascinating. It was awesome. And, it was a testament to man’s ingenuity and dedication.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Most visitors to Washington, DC are well-aware of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in the heart of the city. I suspect though that many visitors do not realize there is a second site for the museum located about thirty miles west of DC, near Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Virginia. The site is known as the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
You don’t have to be a dedicated follower of the space program or for that matter even a fan of Star Trek and/or Star Wars to appreciate the history of flight and space. Although, if you are a big fan of air and space, the center is must-see stop for you. It’s an ideal road trip destination that everyone will enjoy.
While both air and space sites offer a host of information, history and actual flying machines, the Udvar-Hazy Center offers it all on a grand scale. I’m talking, huge!
Space Shuttle Discovery
What I don’t know about the air and space program could fill a book; I am, I confess, completely clueless. When you watch a drama unfold on television, from the comfort of your sofa or favorite chair, you can’t fathom the sheer magnitude of what you’re watching. Its one of those fun and fascinating things you just have to see for yourself.
With a wing/hangar pretty much all to itself, at at the Udvar-Hazy Center, the Space Shuttle Discovery is the star of the show. How can anyone not be impressed by such an incredible flying machine? Because I know so little about the space shuttle I did a little digging and learned:
- “Discovery has earned a place of honor in the collection of national treasures preserved by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The longest-serving orbiter, Discovery flew 39 times from 1984 through 2011 — more missions than any of its sister ships — spending altogether 365 days in space. Discovery also flew every type of mission during the space shuttle era and has a record of distinctions. Discovery well represents the full scope of human spaceflight in the period 1981-2011.” airandspace.si.edu
The Air France Concorde
If you know me at all you know that I loathe everything about flying. In my book it’s a necessary evil to get where I want/need to go. I have to admit though, I was keenly interested in seeing the Air France Concorde. I would have been even more interested if we had been able to see the interior of the plane. Just how cozy and compact was it in there? I
think know I’d put up with the cramped knee space if I could shave off three hours of a cross Atlantic flight.
The Concorde was actually in service for 25 years. It was able to reach speeds of 1,350 mph (2,170 km/h) and had four Rolls Royce engines. For some reason I found that little tidbit of the Rolls Royce engines amusing. With a capacity to carry just 100 passengers, the Concorde catered to first-class clientele. The cost of a seat on the Concorde was pricey at best, too pricey for the average passenger. And, since I’d be an average passenger, I’d be out of luck if the Concorde was still flying. Bah!
If You Go
- 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly, VA 20151
- 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. every day except December 25
- Free admission (all Smithsonian Museums offer free admission)
- Parking fee is $15
- Public Transportation options
- Free admission to the observation tower
- Free guided 90-minute tours at 10:30 and 1:00
- Imax Theater requires paid ticket – wheel chair accessible, closed captioning and audio
- Flight simulators require paid ticket
- A large McDonald’s is the only food outlet
- ATM in Museum Store and IMAX Theater box office
- Multiple restrooms