WASHINGTON — Some of the most iconic artifacts of aviation and space history are getting an updated display for the 21st century, with the Apollo moon landing as the centerpiece.
For the first time since its 1976 opening, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum plans to overhaul its central exhibition showing the milestones of flight. The extensive renovation announced Thursday will be carried out over the next two years with portions of the exhibit closing temporarily over time, said Museum Director J.R. "Jack" Dailey.
Charles Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" aircraft from the first trans-Atlantic flight, John Glenn's Mercury capsule from his first Earth orbit and an Apollo Lunar Module recalling America's first moon landing will be among the key pieces to be featured. Such artifacts have made the Air and Space Museum the nation's most-visited museum, drawing 7 million to 8 million visitors each year.
The project will be funded by the largest corporate donation in the Smithsonian's history. On Thursday, Boeing announced a $30 million gift to the museum. The central gallery will be renamed the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. In all, Boeing has donated nearly $60 million to the museum throughout its history, the company said.
The exhibition overhaul also marks the start of a renovation of the entire building through 2020, which will require federal funding.
The museum will also add science fiction with a model of starship Enterprise from "Star Trek."
"This is all part of us moving into the future," Dailey said. "Times have changed, and there are opportunities for producing exhibitions that weren't even imagined 38 years ago."