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Armstrong Air & Space Museum

The Armstrong Air and Space Museum is located in Wapakoneta, Ohio. The museum was named to honour Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon, and chronicles Ohio's contributions to the history of space flight.


Above: Bust of Neil Alden Armstrong (left) and a sample of Apollo XI Moon rock (right). This lunar sample was collected in July 1969 by Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. Known as vesicular basalt, it is composed of fragments from the Moon’s original crust, which is over four billion years old.

Neil Alden Armstrong (1930-2012) was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He studied at Purdue University and in the meantime had obtained a pilot’s licence at the age of 16; he went on to become a fighter pilot in Korea and later worked as a civilian test pilot. He was chosen as an astronaut in 1962 and commanded the Gemini 8 orbital flight in 1966. In 1969, he set out in Apollo XI on a successful Moon-landing expedition with Buzz Aldrin (Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.) and Michael Collins. On this expedition on July 20th 1969, Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the Moon, with Aldrin the second person to do so (Collins remained on the command module above the surface). In 1970, Armstrong published a book, First on the Moon and he later taught aerospace engineering at Cincinnati University (from 1971 to 1979).

Above (Composite Image): The museum on the outside has the appearance of a futuristic Moon base. The design of the architect, a Wapakoneta native, was selected from a national contest.

At the time of the first Moon landing, the then Ohio Governor James Rhodes proposed to build a museum in Wapakoneta to honour Armstrong. It opened to the public on July 20th 1972, three years to the day after the Apollo crew completed the greatest journey in human history. Governor Rhodes also dedicated the museum to “all Ohioans who have attempted to defy gravity” and to the history of space exploration. The museum is owned by the State of Ohio and is part of the Ohio Historical Society’s state-wide system of historic sites and museums. Neil Armstrong was never involved in the management of the museum nor benefitted from it in any way; it is operated by the local Armstrong Air and Space Museum Association and in 2011, it received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, the highest national recognition for a museum.


Above: The Aeronca Champion airplane in which Armstrong learned to fly (left) and the actual Gemini 8 Spacecraft that carried Neil Armstrong and David Scott into space in 1966 (right).

Among the items outside the museum are an Apollo Command Module mock-up (the module that carried the three astronauts to the Moon and back during the Apollo missions) and a memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of space exploration, namely on the American Apollo I mission and final missions of the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles. Inside, the museum includes items that Armstrong and his parents have donated and loaned for exhibits. It also features many other one-of-a-kind exhibits including the actual Gemini 8 Spacecraft that carried Neil Armstrong and David Scott into space in 1966, and the Aeronca Champion airplane in which Armstrong learned to fly (at the Wapakoneta airfield). Also on display here are Armstrong’s Gemini and Apollo spacesuits, a genuine sample of Moon rock, a replica of the 1957 Soviet Sputnik satellite (the first artificial satellite which effectively launched the Space Race), a 1:4 scale model of the Curiosity Martian rover, and an “Infinity Room” (which uses mirrors to surround the viewer by an endlessly sea of stars).


Above: A mock-up of an Apollo Command Module outside the museum (left) and one of the displays inside the museum (right).

Exhibits also detail the feats of the Wright Brothers and Ohioan astronaut John Glenn. In total, there are seven interactive exhibits, ten audio/visual elements and three simulators. The 56-foot (17m) dome in the centre of the museum houses the Astro Theater, in which the night sky and a movie documenting the Eagle’s dramatic descent onto the lunar surface are projected. As well as a modern space gallery of artworks, naturally before exiting the museum, there is a shop containing souvenirs and air & space-related items for all ages. In the town of Wapakoneta itself, at 601 W. Benton Street, is the turn-of-the-century Armstrong home, where Neil Armstrong and his family lived. Although possible to view, this property (dubbed “Eagle’s Landing”) is a private residence and so access to the public is not possible. Nearby is Blume High School, which Armstrong attended from 1944 to 1947. Further photographs from the Armstrong Air & Space Museum are shown in the thumbnail gallery below, concluding with a photograph taken of the Moon on the same day of the visit! (click on an image to enlarge):

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