With vintage fighter jets from WWI and WWII, a gunship that flew in Vietnam and tributes to Colorado’s many astronauts, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver’s Lowry neighborhood has long been the place to explore the history of flight, and, in particular, the history of aviation in Colorado.
But a new exhibition takes visitors out of the past and projects them far into the future.
Above and Beyond — produced in collaboration with Boeing, NASA and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum — landed in The Mile High City in September. The interactive exhibition focuses on the advanced aircraft and spacecraft that are already beginning to change our lives. And it encourages visitors to try to imagine the future of flight that will transform our world and help us fly higher, farther, faster and smarter.
“This is the highest profile traveling exhibition we’ve ever brought to Wings Over the Rockies,” says the museum’s director of marketing, Ben Theune. “There’s already been a fantastic response from guests, volunteers and staff!”
Visitors can tackle the exhibition at their own pace and in any order, but we recommend starting with the digital history of flight kiosk. With the push of a button, you can witness the birth of human flight via hot air balloon in the late 1700s, the first solo crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, and the creation of the International Space Station in 1998. The quick history lesson comes full circle with the launch of a test version of a near-space balloon that could lift passengers into the stratosphere.
From there, it’s on to the aircraft of the future. “This exhibition explores the dynamic nature of flight and shows guests the potential for what aerospace can be in the coming years,” says Theune.
You’ll find examples of the first planes that may take passengers on hypersonic flights (that’s five times the speed of sound!), lightcraft that aim to beam crews into space using lasers or microwaves instead of chemical rockets, and a reusable space taxi that could transport astronauts to the International Space Station and home again.
And, of course, what’s more futuristic than flying cars? Check out a scale model of the AeroMobil, a flying car that made its debut with a flight over Vienna, Austria, in 2014.
Always wanted to be a Rocketman (or Rocketwoman)? You’ll love the “Where’s My Jetpack?” exhibit, which traces the history of the jetpack, also called a rocket belt, from its fictional comic-book roots to real-life tests conducted by the U.S. Army, to the use of rocket packs in space.
One of the most exciting aspects of Above and Beyond is the opportunity to get in on the action with the many interactive exhibits. Design and fly your own jet, feel the difference in weight between an aluminum and carbon composite fuselage (the main body of an aircraft) with your own hands, and zap cosmic debris as a “space junker.” You can take a ride more than 22,000 feet above the Earth’s surface in a space elevator, or venture even farther on a trip to Mars and back. Make sure to keep your camera handy to snap a photo of your Mars Passport!
Above and Beyond is open now through January 13, 2019. It is included in the price of admission to Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Tickets are $10 for adults $8 for seniors and military, and $4 for youth (4-16).