A crowd of dignitaries and aviation pioneers gathered at the Smithsonian?s Air and Space Museum in Washington Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the first powered flight. The NASSA celebration served to kick off yearlong ceremonies marking the first century of flight. It was actually 99 years ago on December 17th, 1903, that Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully piloted the Wright flyer for 120 feet in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. That flight lasted just 12 seconds. It was the first of four successful flights that day. Legendary astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn said he hopes the Wright brothers? achievement and the events it spawned will inspire future generations of aviators.

?What we hope will come out of this is a kind of encouragement for concentration on this year, or next year, of attention on what the Wright Brothers did and what followed on with the idea of encouraging our young people to be interested in this, be interested in science, in aviation, and all the things that go along with it

Senator Glenn was among 12 aviation pioneers honored at the celebration, including Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The Wright Brothers were represented by their great grand niece, Amanda Wright lane, and her children.

Actor and master of ceremonies John Travolta recalled how his childhood dreams about flying led to a lifelong hobby.

If you had told me when I was a child that I would one day be in possession of eight jet licenses, and two of them include the 747 and the 707, I was not particularly a great student, but it was my dreams, my passion, and my goals that I wanted to achieve.?

Tuesday?s National Centennial of Flight celebration also featured the presentation of a special banner, signed by the astronauts and members of the U.S. centennial of flight commission. The banner will be carried by the astronauts aboard the space shuttle ?Atlantis? during their upcoming mission next March.