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  South side of the Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets SW; closest Metro L'Enfant Plaza.

  The National Air and Space Museum is by far DC's most popular attraction, drawing nearly ten million people every year. Most of them may seem to be here on the day you come, but the hangar-like building can accommodate everyone without feeling crowded, and you can always see the hundreds of historic aircraft close up. Hanging from the rafters in the main entrance gallery, the "Milestones in Flight" include the handmade plane in which the Wright Brothers made the first powered flight in 1903; Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis, in which he made the first solo transatlantic crossing in 1927; the claustrophobic Mercury capsule in which John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962; and the ultra-light Voyager, which flew around the world non-stop in 1986.

  Most of the museum is taken up with exploring the space race from both American and Soviet perspectives, using models and actual spacecraft to show the development from von Braun's V1 rockets up to a gawky-looking lunar module. "Apollo to the Moon" is one of the most fascinating galleries, centering on the Apollo 11 (1969) and 17 (1972) missions, the first and last respectively there's Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's spacesuits, navigation aids, space-food, clothes and charts, and an astronaut's survival kit (complete with shark repellant)。 Further galleries include "Stars", a history of astronomy; "Looking at Earth", where the aerial photographs include Boston snapped from a balloon in 1860 and German castles recorded by camera-toting pigeons; and "The Great War in the Air", bursting with dogfighting biplanes.

  The museum also shows a rotating program of super-large-screen IMAX movies ($4; 202/357-1686 for times), all of which have some connection with flying; the most spectacular, The Dream is Alive, was shot from an orbiting space shuttle. The Flight Line cafeteria and the Wright Place restaurant enable star-struck families to stay in the building all day.


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