Friday, January 22, 2010

Space Case

This is from the American/Soyuz hook-up in space..

I'm certain I haven't been inside the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in all the years I've been in DC. It is one of the most popular museums during tourist season, and also a place where teachers bring kids on field trips. Both of those facts make the idea of visiting quite daunting, at least to me.

But as disoriented as I was yesterday after writing a poem, posting the poem, deleting the poem, and from all the astrological planetary re-arrangement I've been engaged in, not to mention the fact that January is not a big tourist month in DC, I ventured inside.

Buzz Aldrin's in-flight space suit.

Almost immediately I felt kind of sad. The budget cuts that the Bush administration levied on the Smithsonian really show in that museum. It's so shabby. The carpet is careworn and dusty, the exhibits are lackluster even though many of them are quite huge and historically important. But the truth is that it's actually more like a junkyard for old rockets, airplanes and spaceships than a museum.

I was happy to encounter the Apollo capsules, to understand in a visceral way that I'm not the only person who has yearned to go see the stars up close and personal. But it was kind of appalling to see how funky the building has become. There's even a food court attached to the museum, with a coke bottle dressed up like a rocket pointing the way.

Fast food is really the last thing that tourists and schoolkids need more of. I mean, really.


Nancy said...

Sort of sounds like a lot of things in our country right now. Our resources are being used to fight two wars we will not win. Bailing out bankers and auto companies. Not much left for anything else. But this seems especially sad to me. The Smithsonian is a national treasure.

Bee said...

It does sound rather sad.

I've never been a big fan of spending lots of money on space research, though. It seems like we should turn our attention/resources to the many problems on this planet.

BTW, my brother may be moving to D.C. this summer. Can you believe that I've never been there? I see a trip in my future. ;)

Reya Mellicker said...

I agree with you, Bee, but it would be nice to preserve the artifacts from that time in American history when we had such big ambitions. Would be nice to present those artifacts in a classy way, wouldn't it?

I'm not against the launching of the big telescopes, btw. The views from Hubbel and Chandra have opened our eyes in so many ways, wow.

Linda Sue said...

Space research is our only hope I reckon. Wars not so is all about spending priorities, I guess. From the space programs so far we have come to understand this tiny speck of dust in the universe better, where we began where we are headed. Humans elvove slowly, behaviours will continue until there is awakening, which will crawl on in it's own time and should not hinder study, advancement in scientific and space exploration. After this planet has run it's course it would be nice to find another home out there for Human stuff, by that time we may have a handle on our habits and behaviours....just saying- give space a chance!

steven said...

reya - the space thing - you know, let's go explore the rest of whatever is in our neighbourhood - is just like when hudson, cabot, champlain, cartier and all the others made their way up and down the east coast. it's about pushing past the place where you fall off. i think it's important to hang onto and take care of artifacts of our exploration because they say so much about who we are, what we think like, what we wish and then the opposites of all of that. the telescopes have opened the minds of people.... yeah that's for sure! steven

Karen said...

Hey, Reya.

I think part of the reason things look shabby over there is those very crowds of people that make the place daunting. With that many people coming through, they could replace the carpet every year and it would still look pretty sad most of the time. The exhibits, though... if they look shabby, that's a bad sign.

And I totally agree with you about the fast food thing; sadly, that place has a monopoly on feeding the tourists. If they only knew about the fabulous (but expensive) cafe in the basement of the NMAI!!

Ronda Laveen said...

Tis sad, really. That photo of the space suit is really cool.

Steve said...

Yikes. I'm sorry to hear they've let the place go. This was always my brother's favorite part of the Smithsonian -- I preferred the Natural History museum and, later, the East Wing of the art museum.

Seeing this old space stuff reminds us how little our culture emphasizes scientific exploration, unlike those first thrilling years in space. The shuttle program never had the same magic as the Apollo and Gemini missions. I once read that's because the shuttles have more of a commercial mission -- raising satellites and space stations and the like -- but I don't know whether that's really the reason.

Rebecca Clayton said...

That's sad. When I was working at the Natural History museum (the Reagan and GHW Bush years), it was the shabby place, and Air and Space was the busy, happening showpiece. Steve's right about the wear and tear, though--it was quite a job to keep the carpet clean every day.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

not always a place I pop in when I'm in town, but being from a family where my father was a test pilot and aviator, have been more times than I can count - however haven't been in probably 4 or 5 years.... wasn't looking shabby then, sorry to hear it's gotten so. maybe they are spending their "air and space" bucks on the new facility out at dulles (which I haven't been to yet, but tis only a matter of time given my family of origin and 'family outings')

oh, like the new header!