Day 2: Flying Through the Air & Space Museum

Mural of WWII Figher Plane

Dear Reader:


Because it was Saturday, we slept in late, had a couple cups of coffee, sat on our balcony overlooking Nordstroms at the mall, and looked through tourist guides to figure out what we wanted to do with our day. We thought we might go over to the National Mall for a taste of BBQ at the Safeway National Capitol Barbecue Battle XIX. This is a benefit festival/contest to raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and has raised over 1.2 million dollars for the organization! However, we got such a late start, we decided to save the ribs for Sunday and flew over to the Air & Space Museum instead.

Here’s the funny thing: I’ve been to D.C. four times including this trip. I’ve been to the Air & Space Museum three times now . . . and I don’t even really care about airplanes! Craig wanted to see a couple of IMAX movies showing there, and it is close to our “favorite” L’Enfant Square Metro stop. We did enjoy reading about the Red Baron, WWI and the beginning of airplane warfare, looking at the WWII pilot uniforms and the colorful names and decorations painted on the planes, and learning about Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh in the Pioneers of Flight gallery.

1783 Balloon at 1/4 Scale

I thought this was pretty. It is a quarter-scale model of the first balloon flight in 1783.

The most compelling moments of the day for me were watching the two IMAX 3-D shows–RESCUE 3D and HUBBLE 3D. The RESCUE 3D movie featured rescue workers who all ended up helping in the Haiti disaster. Seeing the shots of the Haiti and the devastation and the people trying to survive in the aftermath of the earthquake was sobering. Seeing it, you can’t quite imagine how anyone could have survived or how they can rebuild.

HUBBLE 3D took us off planet Earth and into space. Our planet is incredibly beautiful viewed from space. The juxtaposition between the incredible amounts of energy expended on our space program (watching lift-off, you can’t help but be awed by the blast of fire propelling that shuttle out of the atmosphere) and the miracle of a blue planet covered in water and green and brown land and wisps of clouds. I was hit by the irony that in order to “see” our planet and appreciate how precious and vulnerable it is, we had to develop technology to this level, putting massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere that may or may not be raising the temperature of the planet and putting natural systems in jeopardy. Earth Policy Institute “2010 Hits Top of Temperature Chart” NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies “Earth’s Temperature Tracker” by David Herring

Can we continue to afford to burn that much fuel in order to explore space?

We are looking for an alternate planet out there that could support human life. The Hubble telescope has taken pictures of millions of solar systems, some with their own planets. That’s hundreds of millions of planets (or billions?) Nebulae are out there “birthing” new stars all the time, nascent solar systems that one day may cool and form even more planets. It’s more than my mind can comprehend.

The law of averages would suggest there would be at least one other planet out there that could support human life, but I do have to wonder: Instead of looking for a new Earth, shouldn’t we try to maintain the one we already have?

Tomorrow: I’ll hopefully be posting about today’s BBQ consumption and a bike ride along the Potomac.

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