One of my favorite parts of the Smithsonian is the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The Udvar-Hazy is a part of the National Air & Space Museum, but it’s not on the National Mall. The National Mall has limited space, so in 1999 they had the brilliant idea of putting a giant hangar near Dulles Airport in Virginia and filling it with all kinds of cool stuff that wouldn’t fit in the main Air & Space Museum.
If you have a long layover at Dulles Airport, this is a GREAT way to kill some time. Fairfax Connector operates a bus from Dulles to the Udvar-Hazy Center every hour. The trip takes less than fifteen minutes, and it only costs a few dollars.
They’ve got hundreds of fascinating historical aircraft, as well as a restoration hangar where they can work on several airplanes at once. This is a BIG place. They have Felix Baumgartner’s capsule, ultralights, stunt planes, dirigible cabins, and so much more. They have cool space stuff like the Gemini 7 space capsule. They’ve also got an SR-71 Blackbird. And an Air France Concorde. And the freaking Enola Gay.
And they have a Space Shuttle. Guys, this place is SO COOL!
There are four space shuttle orbiters left, after the tragic destruction of Challenger and Columbia. The remaining four are all retired into museums. Endeavour is at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California. Enterprise is at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum in New York. Atlantis is at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. And Discovery is here, at the Udvar-Hazy.
I’m not likely to ever see Endeavour because I have no interest in going back to Los Angeles. I’ll see Enterprise next time I’m in New York for work, post-pandemic. Nikhil and I went to the Kennedy Space Center this summer and saw Atlantis. (Editor’s note: I thought I had blogged the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex, but I don’t see it here. I’ll have to come back to write that post later because the spacecraft on display are amazing.)
I mentioned Lorrie’s weekend visit back in my post about the Air Force Memorial. That same weekend, we drove out to Chantilly to see the Udvar-Hazy, and to get some quality time with Discovery.
An STS Orbiter is a very, very large thing. Larger than you might expect. The rockets at the back are just insanely large. Until you see them up close, it’s difficult to describe the immensity.
The space part of the Udvar-Hazy has some displays pertaining to pop culture and how it intertwines with our space exploration. There are items from Babylon 5, Star Wars, and Buck Rogers, among others. There’s also a hero model used in the filming of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You don’t ever see it in the movie, but there’s a bunch of little things glued onto the model in various places to give it more detail. Like trucks, and mailboxes, and R2-D2, seen in the photo below. (Here’s a fun pop culture trivia- there’s also a small R2-D2 on the deck of One-Eyed Willie’s pirate ship in The Goonies. That little droid just gets everywhere.)
For some reason, there’s even a tiny model of the Space Shuttle in the Space Shuttle’s wing, complete with tiny people. I love miniatures, so this was extra fun for me.
I took hundreds of photos in the Udvar-Hazy. If I showed the rest of them inline like this, the post would be insanely long. Instead, I’ll just throw 78 of them into a gallery!
Have you ever been to the Udvar-Hazy Center?
35/52 (and 14 of 30!)