National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.


The National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (photo by David Bjorgen)

I have already written about the National Air and Space Museum’s surprisingly good country cousin in Kansas. The larger museum on the National Mall in Washington is an absolute must-see (and try to visit the annex at Dulles International Airport as well).


National Air and Space Museum entrance hall, with the Apollo 11 command module on the left (photo by Jawed Karim)

There is lots to see in the Washington museum – the Apollo 11 command module and the Wright brothers’ aircraft, for example – and lots to do. And the museum is free, although the IMAX theatre, planetarium, and flight simulators are not. For young children, there are story times. See also the floor plans and a list of aircraft on display at this superb museum.


An interactive exhibit (photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm)

If you can’t visit, there are online exhibits, a multimedia gallery, a blog, and images and video from the public observatory.


Aircraft on display – including, on the right, the opportunity to enter a 747 cockpit (my photo)

Note: the museum is currently closed due to the US federal government shutdown.

Hello, Olinguito! Sorry to have ignored you

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The Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina, photo above by Mark Gurney) is a recently “discovered” mammal, which lives in the cloud forests of the Andes.

As Nature and e! Science News report, misidentified specimens were “hidden in plain sight” for more than a century until, just recently, staff from the National Museum of Natural History realised that they represented a distinct species.

What other discoveries might be waiting in museum collections around the world? Or on a remote mountain-top somewhere?

The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center


The Kansas Cosmosphere (photo by Patrick Pelletier)

The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas is the small country cousin of the fantastic National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


The cockpit of the SR-71 (photo by Joanna Poe)

Although much smaller than its Washington counterpart, the Kansas Cosmosphere holds some impressive gems in its collection, including an SR-71 Blackbird in the lobby, a German V-2, the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft (launched in 1961, and recovered from the Atlantic Ocean in 1999), and the command module from the ill-fated Apollo 13.


The Apollo 13 command module (photo by “HrAtsuo,” public domain)

The Cosmosphere also houses a planetarium and a dome theatre, and provides a range of summer programmes. It’s amazing what you can discover in Kansas!


The Liberty Bell 7 (photo by “Slammer111”)

The Hunter and the hunted

The Hunter, a 2011 Australian adventure thriller starring Willem Dafoe, features some beautiful photography of the Tasmanian wilderness, and describes a fictional search for the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger). See the movie trailer here. The thylacine was a striped carnivorous marsupial resembling a dog, but is now extinct.

Or is it? And who would benefit if it was found?

See also the Thylacine exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.


The thylacine: illustration by John Gould, 1863

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.


View of the National Museum of Natural History, photo by “Amanda”

Although I’ve never been to this museum in London, one of the places I have been fortunate enough to visit is the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.


The elephant in the Rotunda, my photo

This museum has a wonderful collection of items, and is very well-curated. Floor plans are online, as are some virtual exhibitions.


Photo by “Daderot,” public domain

This is certainly one of the world’s best science museums. And it’s free!