Located directly off Lake Michigan and surrounded by Jackson Park, the Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. While their exhibits range from a coal mine, storms, green energy, to U-505 a German U-Boat, we will be concentrating on the aviation and space exhibits.
Located on the Balcony Level the aviation side of the Transportation Gallery is their centerpiece United 727. This airliner was donated to the museum after its retirement from United Airlines. Upon a stunning short field landing at the now closed Meigs Field (CGX) the 727 was put on a barge and prepared for transit and display in the museum. The transport on Lake Shore Drive and locating in the MSI’s parking lot for final disassembly before being permanently located in side the museum is an amazing feat and well documented by their video that is part of the exhibit. A wonderful set of 360 Gigapixel images of the 727 can be seen here. What is really cool about this exhibit is you can enter the 727 where see the cockpit and the rear engine compartment with air stairs.
Exhibit Two: Transportation Gallery
The remainder of the Transportation Gallery includes a Wright Flyer replica along the back wall and a Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny” set flying inverted though the air with a wing walker representing the barnstorming age of aviation. A very rare 1928 Boeing 40B airmail plane, this is in fact only one of the two known remaining airframes of its type. From World War 2 a Supermarine Mark 1A Spitfire up in a climbing attack on their Junkers Ju-87R-2 Tropical Stuka that is set up in a bombing dive. And representing the age of racing is a 1930 Texaco TravelAir Model R. All aircraft can be seeing from not only the Balcony Level but also the second floor. I strongly recommend seen this exhibit from all sides, they really let you get close and the positing of the aircraft is very good allowing clear view of all angels of the airplanes.
Exhibit Three: Henry Crown Space Center
The Henry Crown Space Center’s centerpiece in my opinion is the Apollo 8. This was the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth orbit. Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to leave Earth orbit and see the Earth rise as the sun would but behind the Moon as seen in the photograph know as Earthrise. Nearby is Aurora 7, the fourth US manned mission in the Mercury program completing three orbits and being commanded by Scott Carpenter. Also in the Henry Crown Space Center is an Apollo 11 training mock-up and some hands on exhibits such as controlling a Mars rover and simulated docking of spacecraft.
The U-505 exhibit. Ok, while this is not exactly aviation, there are things like wings (diving planes), rudder, and props (screws) on the sub… and aviation assists where used in the capture of this U-Boat… ok that is a stretch. This is an exhibit I could spend all day in. The restoration of the sub compared to how I had seen it last, when it was out side, is remarkable. I was told over a ton of rust was removed from her hull. Make sure you pay the extra bit of money to get the inside tour, you should show up early since this does sell out. The stunning story of the capture, intelligence gains, relocation to Chicago and its preservation make for a stunning tale.
Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60637
Daily: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Open every day except Christmas Day
As a note the Museum of Science and Industry is part of the ASTC passport program. This allowed me free access with my EAA membership, yet another good reason to look into joining, check to see if a museum near you is part of the ASTC passport program and add that to the reasons to join them.