Museum PR Announcements News and Information

National Air and Space Museum Receives Donation for Science Education Programming

The National Air and Space Museum announced that it will receive a $6 million donation from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation to establish an endowment for its Public Observatory Program. It is the largest donation ever given to the museum for science education programming.

The gift is in memory of Phoebe Waterman Haas, the grandmother of the foundation’s president, Thomas W. Haas. Phoebe Haas, who received her doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1913, was among the first American women to earn such a degree. She is believed to be the first woman astronomer to conduct her own telescopic research and not rely on the observations of others. She studied at the historic Lick Observatory near San Jose, Calif.

To recognize the gift, the museum has renamed the observatory the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.

The observatory, which opened on a temporary basis in 2009, houses a 16-inch, 3,000-pound Boller and Chivens telescope on loan from the Harvard College Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The facility is located on the east terrace of the museum’s flagship building in Washington, D.C., near the Independence Avenue entrance.

A portion of the gift will be used to improve and upgrade the structure itself. Most of the gift will be used to create an endowment to support three full-time astronomy educators who will assist visitors with guided observations. The endowment also supports a new education program, “Our Nearest Star,” that will include events for school groups presented in conjunction with the museum’s Albert Einstein Planetarium, educational materials and lesson plans for classroom use, training in astronomy education for teachers and bus transportation to the museum.

Admission is free to the National Air and Space Museum, which includes the flagship building in Washington and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Museum hours are 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25). The Observatory is currently open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. There is a $15 parking fee at the Udvar-Hazy Center.