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Originally published Friday, May 9, 2014 at 6:12 PM

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Wright brothers, moon landing on paper at Museum of Flight

Two documents that speak to key moments in the history of flight are on temporary display at the Museum of Flight.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Museum of Flight

Address: 9404 East Marginal Way South, Seattle

Phone: 206-764-5720

Hours: 10 a.m. — 5 p.m. daily; first Thursday of each month: 10 a.m. — 9 p.m. (free after 5 p.m.)

Admission: Adults $19; Seniors (65+) and active military $16; Youth (5-17) $11; Children 4 and under free.



The uninformed viewer might look at this slightly yellowed sheet of paper and notice only that it bears a couple of famous signatures: Wilbur and Orville Wright.

But to Dan Hagedorn, the document is “the birth certificate of the first practical aircraft manufacturing firm in the world.”

And now that you know that, you may want to take a look for yourself. You have until June 1.

The Museum of Flight, as part of its 50-year anniversary celebration, is displaying, on a temporary basis, some “Treasures from the Vault” — documents and other items generally shown only to researchers and historians.

Hagedorn, the museum’s senior curator, said the Wright brothers’ document is the signature page from the 1909 contract under which the brothers transferred to their newly created company the patents for the aircraft they had constructed and the mechanism used to control it.

“In essence, that made it the first aircraft-manufacturing company in the world,” created less than six years after the brothers’ first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Hagedorn said.

In the same heavily secured display case, the museum is displaying another precious document, one that its 60 years younger.

It’s a “burn card” from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that put man on the moon for the first time. Information written on the card by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong deals with the calculations for engine use needed to set the lunar module in motion away from the flight’s command module and toward the moon’s surface.

Both items are usually kept in a vault both for security reasons and to keep them out of damaging light.

Hagedorn said that, shown together, the documents illustrate “a sense of connection,” an affirmation that present and future developments in flight — and science in general — are always built on what went before.

Both documents have been in the museum’s possession for years, and were given to the museum by donors who do not want to be publicly identified.

Hagedorn said the Wright brothers contract is part of a collection of documents for which the museum’s benefactor is said to have paid more than $1.2 million in the late 1990s. The Smithsonian Institution was interested in acquiring the collection but could not afford it, he said.

Throughout the year, the museum will put other archived material on temporary display.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or

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