So as you probably know, I went to DC for the 4th/my birthday. The goal of the trip was to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy center. I'm a big time aviation enthusiast and I hadn't been to the air and space museum since I was a kid, so this was kind of a big deal for me.

I didn't feel like lugging around my DSLR, so these were all taken on my iPhone. I've become a big proponent of experiencing the world with my own eyes rather than through the lens of a camera, so this is how I do everything these days. These pictures aren't meant to be good, just a medium for channeling memories and sharing stories.

With that out of the way, lets get started. I took a very early flight out Thursday morning, which gave me an opportunity to remember why I fell in love with airplanes in the first place.

We took off before dawn, and as we climbed the horizon grew farther and farther away, basically forcing a sunrise

The sky was breathtaking. This was one instance where I regret not having a better camera

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A view like this is why I can only roll my eyes when someone complains about air travel. Sure, the seats are cramped, security sucks, it costs too much, crying babies and yadda yadda. None of that is bad enough IMO to override the sheer beauty that is flying. Beyond the incredible view I can't get over how easy it is to travel because of flight. Here I was in Wichita, KS at 6AM, and by 12:30 PM I had been to Houston, TX and arrived in Washington, DC. Even 100 years ago that trip would have taken days, not hours.

As I mentioned, I stopped in Houston. I'm actually from Houston, so I'm no stranger to the city. Taxiied past a United 787

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I'd really like to see United apply the swoopy paint scheme to their other planes.

I switched from an Embraer 145 painted in the old blue striped United scheme (that was a shock) into a Boeing 737-700. We had arrived in DC, which is always an experience when flying into Reagan National

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On Thursday we just walked down to the mall and wandered around for a bit before taking a night bus tour. The American History museum is really pretty great. We saw the original Star Spangled Banner, which is tucked away in a dark room with no photography allowed now, trying to preserve what little remains of that flag. The GM-sponsored America on the Move exhibit has some interesting stuff, like this infamous Winton that became the first car to cross the US on a bet

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I've never been a big Honda fan, but I would rock with civic in a heartbeat

I should have taken more pictures at the American History museum, but we were in a bit of a hurry to catch the night tour. The US Marines memorial depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima is an impressive statue

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The view of the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial is stunning at night

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It's also a great place to watch planes arrive at Reagan National...

Lincoln is big, but all I could think of was that scene in Transformers: Dark of the Moon where Megatron blows him up and uses his chair...

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iPhones suck at night.

On Friday the 4th we caught a Nationals game. Hard to be more murican than watching baseball on Independence day

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For as much as the iPhone camera sucks at night, it takes some pretty impressive panoramas

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The game ended with the Nat's losing to the Cubs, and we caught the metro back to the mall. With extended hours thanks to the holiday we had plenty of time to visit the National Air and Space Museum, so we did. Let the Planelopnik commence...

The entryway to the NASM is an impressive collection of aircraft and spacecraft. First we have the Bell P-59 Airacomet, America's first jet fighter

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Next to it the X-15, the fastest manned aircraft in history (the Space Shuttle is the only manned vehicle with wings to ever fly faster)

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Up on the next level is a pretty special aircraft, the Wright EX Vin-Fiz. This was the first airplane to fly across the US. It was attempting to win a prize of $50,000. The rules? Touch each ocean with the aircraft in 30 days or less. The airplane made it across, piloted by William Randolph Hearst, but not before making 75 stops including 16 crashes, arriving in Long Beach 49 days after departure. That 2 hour layover in Chicago doesn't seem so bad now does it? More of this airplane in a bit

This is one of those exhibits like the Space Shuttles that depresses me. Before the Shuttle program was cancelled a mission was planned to fly the Shuttle up and retrieve Hubble, bringing it back down to earth to put on display. Thanks to the cancellation of the Shuttle we get a mockup of the Hubble to put on display while the telescope that truly opened our eyes to the Universe is fated to burn to death in our atmosphere

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Speaking of the shuttle, this neat airplane was pretty important to that program. Nasa tested a series of Lifting Body aircraft to prove the idea of a reusable spaceplane. This is one of them, the Northrop M2-F3

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I had the honor of meeting General Joe Engle, the last surviving X-15 pilot. He gave an incredible presentation about this fascinating airplane. It's a remarkable machine, capable of speeds in excess of 4500 miles per hour and altitudes above 60 miles, reaching the international definition of space.

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In what serves as a pretty amazing contrast, the most famous aircraft in the museum is housed in a room behind the X-15. The 1903 Wright Flyer, the first successful heavier than air manned powered airplane

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It's honestly remarkable this thing flew. It's very flimsy and the airfoil shape is just terrible. The Wrights learned quickly and made some good airplanes to follow up to this one, but became so focused on having a monopoly in the aviation business that they quickly fell behind

The Wright EX again shows the evolution of the airplane. This was a 1911 airplane, and it had nearly completely departed from the original 1903 plane. It took off from wheels rather than a track, the tail was in the back (a 'headless biplane' it was called at the time), the pilot sat upright rather than lying prone. It did still utilize wing warping for roll control however.

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Across from the Vin Fiz sits another very famous airplane, Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega. This airplane set many records for flight by a female

For some reason I'm blanking on the name of this aircraft, but I know it's a Schneider Cup trophy winner. The Schneider Cup was really the height of performance in the late 20s and early 30s. Speed records were shattered, the highest speed achieved (440 mph) still stands as the record for the fastest piston powered seaplane today, 80 years after it was set

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Another view of the Vega

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I couldn't help but take a bunch of pictures of the X-15

This is the only picture I have of arguably the second most famous airplane in the museum, the Spirit of St. Louis. The X-1 rocket plane is in the background, with Space Ship One hanging below it

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No, the BMW logo has nothing to do with cars. Here it is on a WWI era inline engine

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The first production Boeing Model 247. The history around this plane is interesting to me. At the time United Aircraft and Transport Corporation owned Boeing and Boeing's affiliated airline (Boeing Air Transport, BAT, later United). TWA's Jack Frye tried to order some 247s, but UATC just flatout said no. Frye was understandably pissed, and turned to Don Douglas who developed the DC-1, which became the DC-2, and eventually (thanks to American Airlines request for a sleeper transport) evolved into what is in my opinion the greatest aircraft of all time, the Douglas DC-3. In the meantime the 247 was plagued with issues and eventually disappeared from history, and after WWII the DC-3 made up something like 90% of the world's airline traffic.

From past to future, the NASM also houses some UAVs. This one is relatively well known I think, the Boeing X-45A UCAV, the first unmanned aircraft designed explicitly for combat

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I have a bit of a Textron bias, so you're going to see a few of their products highlighted. This is the AAI RQ-7 Shadow UAV

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We'll come back to UAV's in a second. Here's a Rolls Royce Merlin

Damnit Bob! Seriously, this dude was just in my way, so this is the only picture of the Spitfire I have

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The Spitfire is a popular plane. While it's undeniably a great aircraft, I think it's American counterpart was a better package simply because it was easier to build. Similar performance, but cheaper

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This room was very dark...

Again, people in the way. The Mitsubishi A6M-2 Zero. It was a very capable airplane, but the Americans eventually outdid it with the Corsair and Hellcat

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I told you we'd be back to UAV's, here's the AAI RQ-2 Pioneer. It first entered service in 1986

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Bottom view of the X-45. Here's where the 'C' in 'UCAV' comes from

The Hughes H-1. This airplane is a work of art. I think it's my new go-to for 'most beautiful aircraft'. It set a few speed records, but it's most significant for its pioneering use of flush rivets

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Northrop Gamma on Skis. This was the first airplane to fly over the southpole

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A Beech Staggerwing hangs over the Hughes H-1

So shiny...

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The Lockheed P-40 Shooting Star. One of America's first jet fighters, this eventually transformed into the T-33 and was used as a primary jet trainer for many years

This was neat. I should have taken video of it. An explanation of the 3 different types of turbine engines. The colored areas 'flowed'

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Cutaway of a turboprop engine. This is an old engine, utilizing two technologies that aren't used much anymore. Centrifigul compressors and burner cans.

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The Wrights are rightfully acredited with being the first men to fly, but I feel that Glenn Curtiss gets overlooked a bit in their shadow. I'd argue that Curtiss's innovations were ultimately more important than the Wright's. Curtiss got his start building motors and motorcycles, and racing them. THis is an early Curtiss aircooled V8

This engine was used on this racing bike which set a world landspeed record at 130+ miles per hour! Can you imagine doing 130 on THIS?!

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Curtiss was also the first licensed pilot in the US

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Skipping ahead a few decades, here we have a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME)

I'm so bummed this never went anywhere. The Lockheed X-33 Venture Star. It was a concept for a Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) vehicle that utilized a really neat motor technology, the Aerospike engine. Look it up, it's pretty badass

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You'll always be a planet to me Pluto :'(. RIP

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Ever wondered how the moon rocks came home? In a briefcase!

That's all I had from the NASM on the mall. Back to vacation pictures, we crossed the mall to get some food. Crowds had started gathering for the fireworks.

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While waiting for a table I saw this Mirage. First and only time I've seen one in person. I like it, I need to go test drive one. It looks like fun

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Fireworks time approacheth. The mall was pretty crowded, but not bad

FIREWURX!

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If I'm honest, it wasn't all that exciting. The fireworks were big and impressive, but we were so far away from the concert that there was no music, just the occasional boom from the fireworks. If I had traveled to DC just for the fireworks I would have asked for my money back.

Saturday morning we got up, had breakfast, and headed out to Dulles for the main goal of the trip: the Stephen F Udvar-Hazy center. This place was amazing

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Some of you are going to ask why I don't have more pictures of the SR-71, so I'll explain: I don't really care about it. Yeah, it's a cool plane, but it's far from the most interesting thing in the museum, and I've seen plenty. There's one 30 minutes from my house.

This thing though, oh boy. I was so excited to see it. It's down at the end of the ramp to the right of the entrance, I basically ran to it. This is a NASA prototype of an oblique swing wing. This is one of the coolest advanced aircraft configurations IMO. I can go more in depth on them if you'd like, I did some research on them in school and designed my senior project around the idea.

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As if that weren't enough, I went full fanboy on this bad boy. I've posted it here before, and it's so badass to finally see it myself. The Lycoming XR-7755: the largest piston aircraft engine ever made. 127 L of watercooled muscle. It was really inefficient and never flew, but it's so freaking big it's awesome.

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More info on the XR-7755. I wish it was displayed laying down

A wankel! I don't know anything else about it, sorry, I forgot

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Merlin again, conveniently next to the Allison V1710

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The Merlin is famous for powering the Spitfire, Mustang, and Lancaster, among others. The Allison V1710 was actually the original Mustang engine, but underperformed in that airframe. It found a good home in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning though

When the Concorde was in development some people thought there was going to be an SST war. Boeing was developing one, and this is a wind tunnel model of a Lockheed prototype

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Another picture of the Oblique wing vehicle


As I said before, iPhone is pretty good for panoramas. This is the heart of the F-35 Lightning II. I still think this is a stupid airplane. The VTOL aspect makes it carry around a lot of dead weight, you can see it here. The rotating nozzle, the lift fan, the monstrous fan shaft...this airplane would have been better without the VTOL requirement

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This is actually the prototype, the X-35. I have a better picture of it later

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F-14 Tomcat. It's so much bigger than you'd think.

Grumman A-6 Intruder. It's a dopey looking airplane but I like it

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So fucking shiny! T-33 Shooting Star in bare metal. This is why I like chrome wrapped cars

F-86 Sabre

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Mig 15. I love air museums, these two were bitter rivals and now they sit nose to nose

Really blurry F-4 Phantom. Had to throw it in here because it looks like the RC version I have

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Super blurry Me 163 Komet. This was really, really cool to see. I have a better picture later

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This was one of the planes I was looking forward to seeing: the Northrop N-1M Flying Wing. So cool.

Northrop was convinced that the best airplane would eschew a fuselage and only be a wing. He insisted it would be the most efficient airplane you could build. He's kind of right, but as a manned aircraft it's a challenge. The airfoil has to be thick to support a person, and there's a reason airplanes have big vertical tails...

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Hawker Hurricane. Before the Spitfire ruled the skies this thing fought its wings off. Really nice to finally see one in person

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Stearman PT-17 Kaydet

Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Gorgeous airplane

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Solidly in the category of things most museum visitors will over look, this is an original Curtiss Flying Boat Hull. It seems pretty mundane by today's standards, but when Curtiss decided to make the hull of a boat serve as the fuselage for an airplane it was nothing short of revolutionary

The Baldwin Red Devil. The rarity and history of this airplane gave me chills. This was Thomas Baldwin's (successful) attempt at copying a Curtiss Pusher. Baldwin was a peformer who had been convinced that dirigibles were the future. He eventually transitioned to building and flying fixed wing aircraft, and this is one of the 6 red devils he built and flew

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This one was a headless biplane, which funnily enough was invented by accident. One of the best aviators of the time, Lincoln Beachy, wrecked his Curtiss pusher at an air meet. Instead of giving up he removed the forward wing, at the time the aircraft featured a front and rear elevator, and the airplane surprisingly flew better without it.

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This is a very blurry picture, but I'm posting it because of what it is: an Ohka kamikazee plane. This was basically a guided bomb, flown by Kamikazee pilots and used to bomb american ships

The towering Dornier 335, the only one in existence. Named the Arrow, the 335 was a late war german interceptor. It has one engine in front and one engine in back, and is breathtaking. I remember flying it in Combat Flight Simulator 3, but I never realized how big it was. It's huge

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This is an Arado Blitz. It's credited with being the first jet powered bomber. I love the german glass nose design, this must have been a fun plane to fly

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My only issue with the 335 is there was no way to get a good picture of it. Still, it's enormous

A Horton flying wing prototype. Horton did a lot of experimentation with flying wings in WWII and even built a twin engined jet fighter based on this glider. He was years ahead of Northrop in design

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As far as 'most famous singular aircraft' go, this is probably in the top five. It's a B-29, but not just any B-29: this is the Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb

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The Boeing Model 367-80, predecessor to the 707. Another one that's nearly impossible to get a picture. This airplane is famous for Tex Johnston's barrel roll over the Seattle Fleet Week festivities

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From big to small, the Smithsonian has it all. Underneath the wings of a Boeing 307 Stratocruiser sits this Stitts Skybaby, the world's smallest biplane. Yes it few, and yes it's manned

Another member of the itty-bitty airplane committee, the BD-5

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Super blurry picture of a Rutan Quickie. It's a weird tandem winged homebuilt designed by Burt Rutan

Third member of the itty bitty airplane committee, the Mignet Pou du Ciel, more famously known as the Crosley Flying Flea

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Here's that Textron bias again, the Bell Helicopter/Textron XV-15, predecessor to the V-22 Osprey. This is also a good picture to demonstrate just how many airplanes are shoved in this building, and how easy it is to spend the whole day here. And these aren't just any airplanes, you've got the concorde in the back, the Gossamer Albatross (first human powered airplane to cross the english channel) above, an early Learjet 23, the Pepsi Travel Air...airplanes everywhere!

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Another set of aircraft I geeked out about. Hiller was a genius with helicopters, he pioneered the contra rotating helicopter with this, the Hiller-copter. Note the lack of the tailrotor, by having 2 rotors spinning opposite each other there's no torque induced yaw, and yaw control is accomplished by varying the speed between the rotors. Next to it is the Hiller Flying Platform, which is pretty well known

I forget all the details of this, but it's called an Airphibian. It's a flying car

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It looks to have the issues of every flying car: it's a crappy airplane and a crappy car

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This is a Curtiss fighter, but that's not important. Take a note of what's on top: there's a hook. This was an aircraft used in the parasite aircraft testing programs carried out on the USS Macon airship. I wrote a whole article about them on here a while ago, I'll dig it up and add a link if anyone is interested

Textron bias...Cessna 150 Aerobat, an aerobatic version of the ubiquitous trainer

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Did you know fedex first used a business jet? Yeah, FedEx got its flying start with modified Dassault Falcon business jets

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This was supposed to be a panorama of the Concorde, but it's a better picture of the airplane in the foreground: legendary badass R.A. Bob Hoover's Shrike Commander

Textron bias...

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I had to stop and take a picture of this. It's pretty clear the 367-80 was a prototype, the flap mechanisms were left exposed!

A Curtiss Jenny: one of few remaining examples of an airplane that taught a generation how to fly. It may not be the prettiest airplane in the museum, but it's easily one of the most significant and certainly a highlight of my trip

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I'm going to post another picture of it because I can. Note the Virgin Global Flyer in the background

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Shiny

Gondola from the Red Bull Stratos Jump.. You can see the tailwheel of the Concorde in the background

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Another picture of the Fedex Dassault Falcon

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Bowler Nemesis. A very successful Reno air racer. There's another racer in the background, the Laird-Turner Meteor piloted by the famous Roscoe Turner

The Langley Aerodrome. Langley was actually the head of the Smithsonian Institution when he tried to fly an airplane. He thought power was the only important thing, that anything would fly with enough power. He was kind of an arrogant idiot...this aircraft was powered by an impressive 52 horsepower motor, but it had horrible aerodynamics. He tried to launch it twice in the Fall/Winter of 1903 and both times it failed miserably. After the second time he gave up on flight, and 9 days later the Wrights made their historic first flight

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I heart Razorback Mustangs. This one was modified for air racing, and it's purty

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My best attempt at a panorama of the Enola Gay

A better picture of the Horton Flying wing, with a Focke Wulf FW 190 underneath it and a good view of the Arado Blitz

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This was so cool to see. During the Gemini program Nasa was experimenting with some new ways of bringing astronauts home. One idea was this inflatable Parafoil and landing gear. The idea was that after re-entry the Parafoil would inflate and the astronauts could fly the capsule down like a hang glider. It didn't go anywhere

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A mobile quarantine facility for the Apollo astronauts. No one wanted to catch moon bugs, so the astronauts where kept in here for a bit after returning home

Space Shuttle Discovery. I saw Endeavor last summer in LA. The Shuttle displays just depress me. Theses should be in space, not some museum. It's like seeing a caged tiger: it's an impressive sight, but you know in your heart that it doesn't belong there.

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Neat! Pathfinder and Sojourner model!

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It is impossible to get a picture of the front of Discovery. There's a constant stream of people posing in front of it.

No one will care, but my senior design project was based on this mission and I had no idea it was here, so it was cool to me

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Slightly better view of the Gemini lander prototype. The Apollo Capsule to the left is I believe a mockup, but the bags on it are the actual flotation bags from Apollo 11

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I hope all the moonbugs have died off

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Can you tell I really liked seeing the N-1M?

As promised a better picture of the ME-163. So cool. This airplane was crazy fast. It could reach nearly 600 miles per hour and climb at an unbelievable 31,000 feet per minute. It doesn't look like much, but it's a beast. It's armed with two 30 mm cannons, which it needed because you only had a second or two to fire at your target before you zipped past it

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Departing shot of the Space Shuttle

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Better picture of the X-35. Kinja is acting up, this is going to be a 2 parter. Should post back to back, but I'll put a link here to part 2