Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Brings Space Shuttle Discovery to Google Arts & Culture

August 30, 2018
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The National Air and Space Museum and Google Arts & Culture are celebrating the anniversary of Space Shuttle Discovery’s first launch, Aug. 30, 1984, by launching artifacts, exhibits and tours into the virtual world. Now, more than 200 space shuttle artifacts, several digital exhibitions, virtual tours and a 360-degree video inside Discovery with astronauts Kathryn Sullivan and Charles Bolden can be viewed online on Google Arts & Culture.

“This project is a great example of how the museum is working toward making more of our unbelievable resources available beyond our physical walls,” said Valerie Neal, chair of the museum’s space history department. “Teaming up with Google Arts & Culture allows us to share aviation and spaceflight with a whole new audience in brand new ways.”

The 360-degree video offers a rare glimpse inside NASA’s oldest and most accomplished orbiter with Sullivan and Bolden recounting what it was like to live and work in the spacecraft—from the cramped living quarters to deploying the Hubble Space Telescope. The virtual exhibits introduce online visitors to Discovery’s rich history and interesting occupants, including many of the groundbreaking women of the shuttle era. A Google Cardboard tour is also available, which will give online visitors a chance to take a private, virtual tour around the space shuttle with the host of the museum’s podcast, AirSpace.

Over its 27-year career, Discovery flew 39 Earth-orbital missions, spent a total of 365 days in space and traveled almost 240 million kilometers, more than any other orbiter. Discovery flew every kind of mission the space shuttle was meant to fly. In 2012, it was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center where it has been on display.

A virtual tour inside the museum’s building in Washington, D.C., and the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, has also been released using Google’s Street View. A specially designed Street View ‘trolley’ took hundreds of 360-degree images of the museum that were stitched together, enabling smooth navigation of the entire museum, including the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar where Discovery is on display.

The National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Virginia, near Washington Dulles International Airport. The museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $15 fee for parking before 4 p.m. at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

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Alison Wood

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Nick Partridge

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