Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There

April 12, 2013 – March 27, 2022

National Air and Space Museum
6th St. & Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, East Wing, Time and Navigation, Gallery 213

See on Map Floor Plan

If you want to know where you are, you need an accurate clock. This surprising connection between time and space has been crucial for centuries. About 250 years ago, sailors first used accurate clocks to navigate the oceans. Today we locate ourselves on the globe with synchronized clocks in orbiting satellites. Among the many challenges facing navigation from then to now, one stands out: keeping accurate time. Featuring 144 objects, this exhibition explores how revolutions in timekeeping over three centuries have influenced how we find our way. The exhibition is organized into the following five sections:

  • Navigating at Sea is an immersive environment that suggests a walk through a 19th-century sailing vessel.
  • Navigating in the Air relates how air navigators struggled with greater speeds, worse weather, and more cramped conditions than their sea-going predecessors.
  • Navigating in Space traces how teams of talented engineers invented the new science of space navigation using star sightings, precise timing, and radio communications.
  • Inventing Satellite Navigation describes how traveling in space inspired plans to navigate from space.
  • Navigation for Everyone tells the stories of real people—a fireman, a farmer, and a student—who use modern navigation technology in their everyday lives and addresses what might come next.

Presented in collaboration with the National Museum of American History.

Related book: Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There