Fifty Years of Human Spaceflight

The Soviet Union and the United States transfixed the world by launching the first human beings into space in 1961. Engineers and rocketry enthusiasts had planned such missions for decades, but Cold War competition made them a reality. The flights took place during a dangerous time: 1961-62, the years of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Dwight Eisenhower designated Project Mercury a civilian program with a robust public relations component. In contrast, the Soviets shrouded plans for their project in secrecy and only publicized their missions after they were successful.
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Exhibitions and events

America by Air

Permanent exhibition

Flying was new and daring in the early years of the 20th century. Traveling by airplane was rare. Airlines, airliners, airports, air routes—none of these existed. But by century's end, you...

The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age

Permanent exhibition

Removed temporarily from its place of honor in Milestones of Flight, the 1903 Wright Flyer, the world's first successful airplane, serves as the centerpiece of this exhibition, which celebrates the...

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