Claim your space: Smithsonian offers free passes for Air and Space reopening

Rendering of the "Destination Moon" gallery opening Oct. 14, 2022 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Rendering of the "Destination Moon" gallery opening Oct. 14, 2022 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (Image credit: Smithsonian)

With just a month left before its long-awaited reopening, you can now claim your space to see the National Air and Space Museum's new and reimagined galleries.

The Smithsonian will begin distributing free, timed-entry passes (opens in new tab) beginning today (Sept. 14) at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT).

Closed since the end of March, the Air and Space Museum's flagship building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is now more than halfway through (opens in new tab) a seven-year, $900 million exterior and interior renovation. On Oct. 14, the museum will debut its first eight completed galleries (opens in new tab), as well as reopen its gift shop, Mars Café and its upgraded planetarium.

Related: Smithsonian to debut reimagined Air and Space Museum galleries on Oct. 14

Two of the new and expanded exhibit areas are devoted to space exploration history: the "Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery," featuring Mars rovers and interplanetary probes, and "Destination Moon," which shows how the first astronauts came to walk on the lunar surface.

Other galleries opening on Oct. 14 include: "America by Air," "Early Flight," "Nation of Speed," "One World Connected" and "Thomas W. Haas We All Fly." The 1903 Wright Flyer will also be back on display in the dynamic new "Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age."

Given the expected high demand for entry, the Air and Space Museum will require timed passes for all visitors, at least for the first six weeks. Guests wanting to be among the first inside can reserve up to six free passes for their visit through the museum's website (opens in new tab). (Groups of 10 or more people should visit the museum's group reservations page.)

Map showing the eight galleries, museum store, Mars Cafe and planetarium opening on Oct. 14, 2022 at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Image credit: Smithsonian)

All visitors, regardless of age, must have a pass; although a specific entry time needs to be reserved, the passes do not limit the time visitors can spend in the museum. The building, which is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W., will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, but passes will cut off at 4 p.m. daily for entry.

Beginning on Oct. 14, visitors can gain entry by showing either their digital pass on their mobile device or a paper copy that they print at home.

The museum has set aside a special batch of passes for members of its National Air and Space Society. Directions on how to reserve those tickets will be emailed to society members on Wednesday.

Work continues on other half of the National Air and Space Museum building. The central "Milestones of Flight" hall is targeted to reopen in 2024, with the remaining 14 galleries to follow the next year.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.