Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day at the Museums

Today was Graduation Day for Northwood High School, and as a Montgomery County Public School, it was held at DAR Constitution Hall. Since it was scheduled to start at 2:30 (meaning I needed to be there by 1:30), I decided to do like I did last year and wander around some museums.

I got to the National Air & Space Museum shortly after opening and wandered around to look at some things I didn't get to see much of when I was there for the field trip back in April.
The Soyuz spacecraft designed to dock with Mir and the ISS.
This is a full size mockup of the Hubble Telescope
My favorite plane of all time, the X15
Poor Pluto. Just covered up and left for dead.
A Sojourner rover for Mars exploration. This was a backup, designated "Marie Curie."
A diorama illustrating the Apollo 17 Moon landing

A single F-1 engine from a Saturn V rocket. The opening is approximately 11ft in diameter!

The X15 again. :)
The Apollo 11 command module.
Another view of the Apollo 11 command module
Gemini IV
The Gemini and Apollo modules are crazy small when you think about the time the astronauts spent in there. I don't think most people ever consider what astronauts go through in the name of space exploration. 
The Spirit of St. Louis, being checked out and refurbished as necessary.
Hello Kitty needs her space
Around noon, I headed up to Penn Quarter to grab a quick lunch, then walked over to Constitution Hall. The "quick" way took me around the Ellipse, but the north side turned out to be blocked off; a tour guide surmised that the Obamas must be on the South Lawn or something. So, I had to go around, but still made it before 1:30, though my feet were killing me. Since I generally don't wear heels, even the two-and-a-half inches on my shoes was enough to induce pain after a few hours. 
Decorated caps
Once I figured out where I was supposed to be -- since my original designation had been changed -- I settled in to wait for the processional. Ninety minutes later, we were done, and I mingled with the new graduates for a bit before heading off. Knowing a 4:30 finish meant that traffic was not going to be fun, I lingered downtown for a bit. 
The elevator was working, but all the tickets for the day were allotted by 4:30.
Since the monument was out, I decided to see if the Natural History Museum was open late. The Air & Space Museum had advertised it was open until 7:30 today, so I moseyed across the National Mall to see, and sure enough, 7:30 was the announced close. 
Entering from the Mall side, the iconic African elephant "Henry" is there to greet you
Giant isopod, over a foot long!!
Since my feet were really dead at this point, I kind of hobbled around the Oceans area, looking at trilobites, then went down to the Museum Shop for a couple of postcards. I finished with a Coke Zero and sitting at a table in the cafe for a little while before heading back to the Metro station to go home. 
Asaphus species, thought to burrow in sand and use its eye stalks to look for prey
I missed the scientific name of this one, but I do know it had some of the most complex eyes of any trilobite
Comura species, with multiple spines for protection

Wallicerops species, with a strange "trident" protrusion that may have been protection or maybe for attracting mates
On the way home, I reflected on the fact that going to the Natural History Museum was something of a bit of closure for me. Two years and four months ago, I'd been at that museum, looking at those trilobites, when I received a text from mom saying that dad "kept falling down," and that she was taking him to the hospital. That would be the beginning of the respiratory issues that plagued him until this past April 2. 

I'd stared at that bench where I'd collapsed after that text message. Someone else was sitting on it, but even if it had been empty, I don't know if I could have brought myself to sit there.

It's going to take a long while for the pain of losing dad to diminish to completely manageable levels.

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