Cutbacks Have Smithsonian Down, But Not Out

SmithsonianGovernment cutbacks have affected travel in a number of ways. Passport applications and renewals are taking longer, as is the process for requesting a visa. Traveling abroad, less security at U.S. facilities means less protection for Americans. National parks have closed some facilities and delayed opening of others. Now, even the Smithsonian Institution in Washington is feeling the impact of budget cuts.

“A reduction in a contract for security that supplements the Smithsonian security force affects some museums. The safety and security of the public and our collections will not be compromised,” said a notice on the Smithsonian website.

While no major exhibitions will be closed, the commons in the Smithsonian Castle, one room in the African Mosaic exhibit and sections of the permanent collection galleries in the Hirshhorn Museum will be unavailable for a short time.

On a positive note, the Smithsonian, a top budget travel destination, has a number of new exhibits underway of particular interest to fans of space travel that are unaffected.Extraordinary Voyages: 50 Years of Exploration is a NASA-supported lecture series at the National Air and Space Museum that started with a story that began 50 years ago when Mariner 2 flew by Venus and became the first successful mission to another planet. Upcoming events include a live webcast of the Exploring Space lecture, Vesta in the Light of Dawn on May 7, 2013. This program continues also because of support by aerospace contractor Aerojet.

Featured, fully-open exhibits at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., also include “Time and Navigation,” “Moving Beyond Earth,” “Fifty Years of Human Space Flight,” “Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight,” and “The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age.

This video has more on how budget cuts are affecting the Smithsonian:



[Photo credit – Flickr user The Uprooted Photographer]

Celebrate July Fourth On The National Mall

Fireworks over the National MallIf you’re looking for a unique and fun way to celebrate Independence Day today, and you’re fortunate enough to live close to Washington D.C., you may want to drop by the National Mall to take part in the annual festivities. The iconic monuments and memorials that make up the Mall should make for an inspiring backdrop to a full day of events.

Among the more memorable attractions on the National Mall are the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The three presidents to which those sites are dedicated all played a vital role in forging the U.S. as a nation and today they will each be remembered for their leadership.

Activities on the Mall begin with a parade along Constitution Avenue that gets underway at 11:45 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m. Following the parade a group of park rangers will gather at the Jefferson Memorial where they’ll present a portrayal of life in America circa 1776. The nearby Sylvan Theater will play host to activities for the Junior Rangers from 3-8:30 p.m. and a live concert featuring the U.S. Army Band will begin at 6 p.m. Each of these activities will help set the stage for the impressive fireworks display that will take place between 9:10-9:30 p.m.

Directions to the Mall can be found on the NPS website and visitors are encouraged to arrive early. There are no entrance fees to any of the events or monuments and it is sure to be both a fun and educational way to celebrate the occasion.

Happy Independence Day!

[Photo credit: Leafsfan67 via WikiMedia]

Space Shuttle To Fly One Last Time

space shuttleWhile NASA’s space shuttle program may have ended, the orbiters and other artifacts are being prepared for their new homes and the lessons learned through the program’s history are being gathered for future generations. On its way to the National Air and Space Museum, the shuttle Discovery will make one last flight later this month.

On Tuesday, April 17, NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted atop will fly just 1500 feet above various parts of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Expected to fly between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT near landmarks including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, the SCA will land at Dulles International Airport upon completion of the flight.The exact route and timing of the flight, held in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, will depend on weather and operational constraints. Live coverage of the event can be seen on NASA Television and the agency’s web site.

Discovery completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles from its maiden flight, STS-41-D on August 30, 1984, until its final landing during STS-133 on March 9, 2011.

Discovery was the first of the three active space shuttles to be retired, followed by Endeavour on June 1, 2011. The final shuttle mission was completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011, bringing about the end of the 30-year program.

New Space Race As Shuttle Program Ends


[Flickr photo via NASA Goddard Photo and Video]

Capital Bikeshare stations could be coming to the National Mall

Capital Bikeshare stations could be added to the national mallAnyone who has ever visited the National Mall in Washington, D.C. knows just how congested with traffic the area can be at times. In addition to the usual day-to-day commuters, of which there are plenty, there are always a large number of tourists milling about as well. Travelers often make the pilgrimage to visit the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, along with the host of other attractions that make up the Mall, and frequent traffic snarls can be the result. Now, the National Park Service has come up with a novel plan to help alleviate some of that traffic however, proposing the addition of Capital Bikeshare Stations throughout the area.

The Capital Bikeshare program has become a popular one in Washington, where 110 stations, with 1100 bikes, are spread out across the city. The service offers membership rates of just $7 per day, with additional options of 3 days ($15), 30 days ($25), or a full year ($75). The stations are well placed to allow drivers to park their cars for the day and use a bike to commute from point to point as needed. Until now however, the stations haven’t been allowed on land that is managed by the Park Service, so their addition to the Mall would be a benefit to a new audience.

The NPS has proposed adding the stations to five locations throughout the Mall, providing easy access to the bikes at all times. Those locations would include the Smithsonian Metro Station, as well as the Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and FDR/MLK Monuments. The Park Service proposal says that those locations were selected due to their proximity to popular destinations on the Mall, as well as their access to local bike trails and other forms of transportation like the Metro rail.

As of now, adding the bikeshare stations is not a done deal, and the NPS is seeking input from the public concerning the matter. Personally, I think it would make for a great inclusion to the National Mall, but others may not agree. You can let your opinion be known by leaving a comment here.

Photos: The new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC Although the formal dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, DC, is not until August 28 (as we indicated in this post last week), the memorial officially opened on Monday. I was among the hundreds of tourists and locals that visited the new MLK Memorial and below are some photos I took of the site.

To give you a sense of what you will be looking at, the King Memorial is situated between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials on four acres of the National Mall overlooking the Tidal Basin. One enters the King Memorial through a “mountain of despair,” symbolism mentioned in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

Beyond the mountain of despair lies the “stone of hope,” from which a 30-foot marble statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. emerges. Surrounding the central statue of Dr. King are low, granite walls inscribed with 14 quotes from Dr. King’s speeches.

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