Thursday, June 25, 2009

The National Air and Space Museum

That same afternoon we returned the rental car and then swung by the National Air and Space Museum with Anne. Being an air force family, they were enthusiastic about the museum. Initially, I wasn't. But after getting in, I realized I was sorely mistaken...


There is a difference between the National Air and Space Museum and nearly all others: in this museum you see the real thing. The museum is an entire hangar of the history of aviation, from the Wright Brothers to the Space Shuttle. The sheer scale of this place was awe-inspiring.

Here are housed some of history's most famous planes. This plane is the Enola Gay, the WWII bomber that dropped the first ever atom bomb on Nagasaki. Depending on your perspective, this plane either saved thousands of lives and ended the war or it caused unprecedented destruction and opened our world up to a force more deadly than all of history's weapon's combined. Either way, this plane and the men who flew it changed history for good.

This seemingly innocent plane is the Aichi M6A1 Seiran. It was used by the Japanese in WWII. What makes this particular plane unique is that it didn't take off from land, nor even from an aircraft carrier. Instead, it was released from a submarine. The wings fold up, the floaters detach, and this little plane can emerge from a surfaced submarine. Now, why am I telling you all of this? The reason is because this plane could have changed history forever. The Aichi can only hold a single missle. And so early in WWII, Japanese generals what was the most damage that could be done with a single missle. Even if they surfaced right off the coast of DC., what could one bomb do? Well, they decided that the most damage would be done if several Aichi planes dropped biological weapons over the atmosphere of America, thus infecting literally millions with deadly disease. The Emperor, however, when he heard of this plan, refused to follow through because he was convinced that the world would hate Japan forever if they used such a weapon. The second plan was to bomb the Panama canal and cut off America's naval fleet. But the war ended too quickly. These planes were found in an abandoned sub in the early months after the Empire had surrendered. One can only imagine what the world might have looked like if their original plan would have been executed...

Here's a fun tidbit. When the first astronauts returned from the moon, scientists didn't know if they would be infected with any kind of diseases from the moon's surface. So they built this quarantine capsule for the astronauts in order to protect earth's population from "moon germs."


The Air and Space Musuem is a bit off the beaten path, but if you every travel to D.C., you gotta check it out. And get the tour...it's worth every minute.

1 comment:

Lynn Haanen said...

What a fascinating museum! I have never heard of a plane with wings that could be folded. That plane could have changed so many lives! I remember all of the concern surrounding the moon germs... we just didn't know what to expect from outer space. Still don't...