COURTESY OF ARMSTRONG AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
Continued from page 31
When then-Governor James Rhodes proposed a museum to honor the achievement, Wapakonetans raised much of the money needed to construct it. With futuristic architecture resembling a moon base, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum debuted on July 20, 1972, exactly three years after Armstrong landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Though ever the reluctant hero, he attended the opening ceremonies. Many of the 50th anniversary observances will revolve around the museum, which honors Armstrong and highlights Ohio’s contributions to aviation and space exploration. Fittingly enough, several space shuttle astronauts — including Ohioans Gregory H. Johnson and Donald A. Thomas — will join in the festivities.
The futuristic architecture of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum (above) was meant to resemble a moon base. The museum houses, among other artifacts, the Gemini 8 capsule that Armstrong flew in 1966.
The museum’s collection of Armstrong memorabilia includes such mundane items as his first grade lunch pail and his high school yearbook, which lists his extracurricular activities (band, glee club, student council) and contains the telling notation, “He thinks, he acts, ’tis done.” Also on display is the bicycle he rode to flying lessons — he obtained his pilot’s license before he got a driver’s license — as well as the Aeronca Champion in which he learned to fly. Two other aircraft Armstrong actually piloted — a rare experimental jet and the 1966 Gemini 8 space capsule that infamously spun out of control while docking — are there as well.
During July, Wapakoneta restaurants are featuring Apollo 11-themed fare such as CinnaMoon pancakes, and visitors can take an Armstrong driving tour to sites that include his family’s church, which kept a prayer vigil for his safe return throughout the mission, and the house — now graced by a historic marker — where Armstrong lived. “It’s a beautiful little house that conveys a sense of his all-American background and upbringing,” says Donna Grube of Auglaize and Mercer counties’ Greater Grand Lake Visitors Region.
COURTESY OF THE OHIO HISTORICAL SOCIETY
“Armstrong’s walking on the moon was a triumph,” says Grube. “People everywhere were joyous because mankind had made it to another place.”
More than 80,000 supporters turned out to honor Armstrong at a homecoming parade on Sept. 6, 1969.
32 OHIO COOPERATIVE LIVING • JULY 2019
While the euphoria that Wapakoneta’s newspaper captured in the headline “NEIL STEPS ON THE MOON” has waned, the town’s appreciation for Armstrong never has. In fact, the first man on the moon remains a steady presence in Wapakoneta: Armstrong images hang in Wapakoneta’s post office; there are streets in town called Lunar Drive and Apollo Drive; and the nearest airport is the Neil Armstrong Airport in nearby New Knoxville. “Armstrong is a major figure in history,” says Dante Centuori, the Armstrong museum’s director. “Wapakoneta retains the natural affection and pride that occurs when someone close to you accomplishes something significant.” For a schedule of 50th anniversary events and activities, visit www.firstonthemoon.org or www.greatergrandlakeregion.com. For information about the Armstrong Air and Space Museum,