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Coin Of the Month

Plinky's Coin of the Month
May 2000

May marks two historic moments in flight—1927's first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight and 1961's launching of the first American in space.  Can you name the institution that has artifacts from both milestones?

Hint: It's the National Air and Space Museum, the world's most visited museum.

The Smithsonian Institution has a total of 16 museums and galleries, one zoo, and research facilities throughout the world.  Its National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, has dozens of aviation artifacts, including the plane and spacecraft from these two milestones.

Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight on May 21, 1927.  He took off from Long Island, New York, and 33 hours and 30 minutes later landed in Paris, France.  Today, his plane—the Ryan NYP "Spirit of St. Louis"—hangs in the National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery.

Alan Shepard, Jr. was America's first man in space.  On May 5, 1961, a Redstone rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida, launched his Mercury Freedom 7 spacecraft. His flight lasted 15 minutes 22 seconds, reached an altitude of 116 miles, and traveled 303.8 miles.  At top speed, he flew 5180 miles per hour.  Along with the Freedom 7 spacecraft, the National Air and Space Museum has his flight operations manual and survival equipment.

Both Lindbergh and Shepard have received the Langley Medal from the Smithsonian Institution.  Suggested by Alexander Graham Bell, this medal recognizes "meritorious investigations in connection with the science of aerodynamics and its application to aviation."

The 1996 Smithsonian Silver Dollar Obverse
Obverse:  The obverse of the Smithsonian Silver Dollar shows the institution's first building. Today it's known as "The Castle."

The 1996 Smithsonian Silver Dollar Reverse
Reverse:  The coin's reverse design, a woman carrying the torch of knowledge, is modeled on the Smithsonian's Langley Medal.

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