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THIS IS AMERICA - July 23, 2001: Air and Space Museum Birthday - 2001-07-20


VOICE ONE:

This year, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D-C celebrates its twenty-fifth birthday. Almost two-hundred-twenty-million people have visited the museum since it opened. The Air and Space Museum is the most popular museum in the world. I’m Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Sarah Long. The National Air and Space Museum is our report today on the V-O-A Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

(THEME)

VOICE ONE:

“The Future Takes Off From Here.” This is what National Air and Space Museum officials are calling their year-long anniversary celebration. The museum first opened its doors on July first, Nineteen-Seventy-Six. This was three days before the United States celebrated its two-hundredth birthday. At that time, President Gerald Ford called the museum a “perfect birthday gift from the American people to themselves.” And what a gift it has been for the millions of people who have visited the museum. About nine-million people visit the Air and Space Museum each year.

VOICE TWO:

Retired United States Marine Corps general and pilot John Dailey is the director of the Air and Space Museum. He says the museum has succeeded beyond everyone’s hopes. Now General Dailey says the museum is taking new steps to educate people and support discovery. During the next year, the museum plans to hold several special events. They include free talks by space experts, a series of films, and the release of several new books. General Dailey said the launch of the year-long celebration on July first was a chance for the museum to thank its friends and supporters. There was free food at the celebration, balloons for children, and music by the United States Air Force Band.

(MUSIC BRIDGE)

VOICE ONE:

The National Air and Space Museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian includes sixteen museums, the National Zoo and several research centers. Nine of the Smithsonian’s museums, including Air and Space, are on the National Mall in Washington. They are between the United States Capitol building and the Washington Monument honoring America’s first president.

The Air and Space Museum’s collection of historic objects dates back to the Eighteen-Seventies when China gave the United States twenty hand-held kites. A kite is an object that flies at the end of a rope. It is made with a small support or frame, and covered with paper or cloth. During the celebration at the museum, hundreds of children learned how to make their own kites.

VOICE TWO:

One of the most famous objects at the Air and Space Museum is the first airplane. In Nineteen-Oh-Three, Wilbur and Orville Wright built a wood and cloth plane called the Wright Flyer. The plane made its first flight from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville Wright was piloting the Wright Flyer. It flew thirty-six meters. This historic first flight lasted just twelve seconds. Yet it launched the discovery and development of flying machines.

VOICE ONE:

Visitors can see another famous American airplane at the Air and Space Museum. It is the Spirit of Saint Louis. In Nineteen-Twenty-Seven, Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot in history to fly cross the Atlantic Ocean alone. The trip lasted thirty-three hours. Lindbergh flew from Long Island, New York to Paris, France. He flew more than five-thousand-eight-hundred kilometers without stopping. His successful trip in the Spirit of Saint Louis made Charles Lindbergh a world hero.

VOICE TWO:

The National Air and Space Museum also has the world’s fastest airplane. The North American X-Fifteen has a rocket for an engine. In Nineteen-Fifty-Nine, it became the first plane with wings to travel more than four times faster than the speed of sound. Its top speed was more than seven-thousand kilometers an hour.

The heaviest airplane in the world is also at the National Air and Space Museum. The Douglas D-C-Three was built in Nineteen-Thirty-Five. It was the first successful passenger plane to transport people all over the world. This plane weighs more than seven-thousand-five-hundred kilograms. Yet it hangs from the top of the museum as if it were a toy.

The Air and Space Museum was designed to be able to hang airplanes and spacecraft. The museum has steel supports on its roof, which are hidden from the public. To bring airplanes in and out of the building, the glass wall at the museum’s west end opens like a huge sliding glass door.

VOICE ONE:

Children of all ages especially love the National Air and Space Museum. For three-year-old Everest from Maryland, the airplanes are the best part of the Air and Space Museum.

(CUT ONE: FIRST LITTLE BOY)

But Ian from New Jersey thought the museum’s spaceships and rockets were more exciting.

(CUT TWO: SECOND LITTLE BOY)

VOICE TWO:

One of the most famous spacecraft in the museum is Columbia. It carried Apollo Eleven astronauts Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon in Nineteen-Sixty-Nine. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to step foot on the moon. Their historic success led to more Apollo trips to the moon during the late Nineteen-Sixties and early Nineteen-Seventies.

The last Apollo trip to the moon was in Nineteen-Seventy-Two. Astronauts brought back a piece of the moon. Visitors to the Air and Space Museum can touch this moon rock. It is almost four-thousand-million years old.

The museum also has many games and educational areas for children to learn more about space. This song, for example, teaches children about space and the planets in our solar system.

(CUT THREE: SONG)

VOICE ONE:

Visitors usually enjoy all the objects at the National Air and Space Museum. But there was one airplane that caused much criticism. From Nineteen-Ninety-Five to Nineteen-Ninety-Eight, the museum displayed the Enola Gay. This American B-Twenty-Nine airplane dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan during World War Two.

When the museum first announced its plans for the exhibit, former American soldiers and some members of Congress denounced it. They said the proposed exhibit would have showed the Americans as aggressors and the Japanese as victims. They said it would have provided too much information about nuclear war and not enough about the bravery of American soldiers.

After much public criticism, the Air and Space Museum changed its plans. But other critics criticized the resulting exhibit as a limited view of history. The entire incident forced then-director Martin Harwit to resign as head of the museum.

(MUSIC BRIDGE)

VOICE TWO:

The Air and Space Museum is huge. Yet it only holds about ten percent of the museum’s historic collection of objects. Another ten percent is on loan to other museums around the world. The remaining eighty percent of the collection is in a building in Maryland. The objects will be moved to a new structure currently being built near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia. It will cost an estimated two-hundred-forty-million dollars to build.

This new Air and Space Museum is expected to open in Two-Thousand-Three. It will show more than two-hundred airplanes, one-hundred-thirty-five spacecraft, and many other historical objects. Most of these objects have never been shown to the public. About twelve-million people are expected to visit the new museum each year. These visitors to the new Space Museum will be able to see many more interesting objects that show the exciting history of flight.

(THEME)

VOICE ONE:

This program was written by Jill Moss. It was produced by Caty Weaver. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. I’m Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the V-O-A Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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