Pop Culture and Science Fiction Highlights

October 6, 2022
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In addition to its unrivaled collection of aircraft, spacecraft and artifacts related to the pursuit of flight, the National Air and Space Museum also maintains a large collection of artifacts related to science fiction, pop culture and the social and cultural history of flight. These artifacts allow the museum to explore how humans have imagined their future in the skies and space and celebrate how science fiction leads to science reality, whether by predicting technology that does not yet exist or inspiring the next great pilots, inventors and astronauts. 

Highlights include:

  • X-Wing: This X-wing is a full-sized vehicle that appeared in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) as piloted by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Invented for Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977, X-wings take their name from the shape that their strike foil wings (S-foils) make in attack position. This is on display outside the planetarium on the second floor.
  • Spock Ears Tips: Leonard Nimoy used ear tips like these to transform into the half-human half Vulcan alien Mr. Spock in the 1960s Star Trek TV series; he brought this pair home from the set. This iconic science-fiction prop is new to the museum’s collection and serves to illustrate cultural imagination about possible life on other planets.
  • Studio Model of Starship “Enterprise” from Star Trek: This studio model of starship “U.S.S. Enterprise” (NCC-1701) appeared in the famous opening credits and transition sequences of every episode of the original “Star Trek” television program (1966–69). Shot on a stand in front of a blue screen, this large prop needed heightened detail, color and texture for visibility on a 1960s TV set. “Enterprise” is on display in the south lobby.
  • Matchbox Cars: British manufacturer Lesney made die-cast vehicles packaged in matchbox-sized containers that were immensely popular in the United States beginning in the 1950s. Matchbox introduced smaller Superfast toy cars in 1969. These are found in “Nation of Speed.”
  • Hot Wheels Cars: Hot Wheels die-cast toys were a faster and flashier competitor to Matchbox cars. Introduced in 1968, their low-friction “racing” wheels gave children the excitement of playing with and collecting fast-moving cars. These are found in “Nation of Speed.”
  • Han Solo and Chewbacca’s “Millennium Falcon” Toy Spaceship, 1977: The spaceships featured in the Star Wars films beginning in 1977 employed hyperdrive for galactic travel as the forces of light and dark engaged in a struggle for the future of the galaxy. This is on display in “Nation of Speed.”
  • Barbie Star ’Vette: Beginning in 1962, Mattel offered a variety of fast toy cars for their Barbie fashion dolls, including America’s sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette. This is found in “Nation of Speed.”

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