One of the two balloons that will be used for tethered flights Saturday at the Udvar-Hazy Center was made especially for the museum and donated recently by Adams Balloons LLC.

A Recently Acquired Hot-Air Balloon Reminds a Smithsonian Curator of Another Tale of Ballooning Adventure

At the Udvar-Hazy Center this weekend, see the Smithsonian’s new modern hot-air balloon

This 18th-century box is decorated with an image of J.A.C. Charles and M.N. Roberts rising above the Paris skyline in the first gas balloon to carry humans aloft, on December 1, 1783.

Mementos of the Balloon Age

Evelyn Kendall’s collection of early flight artifacts lands at the Museum.

Sixty-five years to the day after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in an airplane, Felix Baumgartner exceeded Mach 1 in free fall. Now Baumgartner’s gondola and pressure suit join Yeager’s Bell X-1 in the National Air and Space Museum.

Felix Baumgartner’s “Edge of Space” Capsule Goes on Display

Items from the Austrian daredevil’s record-setting jump enter the Museum’s collections.

In 1949 the Library of Congress acquired 303 glass plate negatives developed by the Wright brothers. Some of these prints, including the iconic image above, are in the National Air and Space Museum.

The Wright Brothers’ First Flight Photo, Annotated

A careful study of the shot taken in December 1903 at Kitty Hawk shows the moment of aviation’s birth.

In 1904, Gustave Whitehead was photographed with his 1901 machine — on the ground.

Yes, the Wright Brothers Really Were the First to Fly

A Smithsonian curator evaluates recent challenges to the aviators’ place in history.

No fan of aviation, Rudolph Dirks was persuaded by a friend to attend the air meet. The “bizarre carnival atmosphere” delighted the artist, who rushed home to paint “The Fledglings,” considered the first serious artistic attempt to depict aircraft flight.

The Katzenjammer Kids Take to the Air

It took a cartoonist to paint the first serious depiction of aircraft flight.

John, Joe, George, and Matt Savidge (from left) with one of their biplanes, ca. 1912. Legend has it that Barney, a one-eyed barn cat, served as test pilot on the scaled-down version. In January 2009, the brothers were inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame.

In the Museum: Life Among the Savidges

In the Museum: Life Among the Savidges

Among the locals helping the Wrights were Tom Beacham (second from right) with young son John and his dog Bounce.

Present at Creation

From five witnesses came a family tradition to honor the moment the airplane was born.


1908: The Year the Airplane Went Public

Five years after Kitty Hawk, the Wrights finally showed the world their invention.

Orville Wright (seated at right, with Wilbur) wears what’s known as “the Chevron,” a thick mustache that covers the top of the upper lip. 
“He had sported a reddish mustache since high school,” writes Tom Crouch in his 2003 book The Bishop’s Boys. “Once full, almost a handlebar, it was now clipped short, just bushy enough to cover a pair of very thin lips that turned up at one corner when he smiled. He was the enthusiast of the pair, ever on fire with new inventions, and the optimist as well, the one who always saw the brighter side.”
There was a (small) outcry when Orville didn't make The Art of Manliness’ list of “35 Manliest Mustaches of All Time.” The father of aviation lost out to a puppet—the Swedish Chef from "the Muppet Show"—and a cartoon character, Yosemite Sam.

Meeting Wilbur and Orville

To understand the brothers, one historian found that what you know is less important than who you know.

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