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A Visit to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space Museum, Dulles Int'l Airport

The day started off with rain as we headed out to Dulles Airport to the Air & Space Museum. My sister Pam, her husband Tim and their two boys Chris and Matt, came along. The museum is really a large aircraft hanger. Every kind of plane you could imagine was either parked on the floor or hanging from the ceiling. The whole history of flight, from the Wright Brothers to the Space Shuttle, was presented in this very large space. We lingered, reading the plaques and commenting on these amazing planes.

I paused for a moment at the Enola Gay. On August 6th, 1945 this B-29 Super-fortress dropped the first Atomic Bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. History changed in that moment of blinding light. As I looked at this plane, I wondered: did the crew know they were going to change the world? Looking at this aircraft, remarkable and beautiful in silver-gray, you can easily forget that this plane was both a harbinger of doom and a savior to thousands of American soldiers. The Enola Gay is at one of those corners in history.

The fastest plane in the world is the SR-71 Blackbird. Used for reconnaissance flights over the former Soviet Union, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan, its published top speed is Mach 3.3. Its real speed is classified. It is another beautiful feat of engineering, and one of my favorites.

I remember when I first heard about the Shuttle program. I was young, and the thought of space flight excited and intrigued me. I loved that the first of the Shuttle fleet was named Enterprise. I imagined that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock might be on board, blasting away in the far reaches of space. The Shuttle program was closer to home, restricted to earth's atmosphere, launching and repairing satellites and ferrying crew and supplies to the International Space Station.

The Enterprise never made it to the launchpad. It was used for landing tests and crew training. The Shuttle program will end soon, the fleet grounded forever. But nothing will take away from the most complex flying machine ever built.

Thanks for reading.

See more photos here: http://gallery.me…henacaldwell/100060

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