Visitors are welcomed to the Wapakoneta facility by the static display of an F5D Skylancer airplane flown on NASA duties by Armstrong. Inside the main entrance ladyfriend Joetta Goodman enjoys her introduction to the facility “...dedicated to all Ohioans who have attempted to defy gravity through flight.”
THEIR HOMETOWN HERO--
As I wandered the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta that day I could not help pondering the amazing fact it was just 66 years from man’s first, powered flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 to man’s arrival on the Moon in 1969.
That is a stunning leap in technology in the mere length of one human lifetime.
Armstrong was born in 1930 and began flying lessons at age 15. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Purdue on a navy scholarship and flew 78 combat missions with the navy during the Korean War.
He was chosen as an astronaut in 1962 and four years later he commanded the Gemini 8 mission which completed the first-ever rendezvous and docking in space. He reached the moon in command of Apollo 11, July 20, 1969.
The museum opened in 1972 and is designed to resemble a futuristic moon base with soil mounded around the frame of the building and its central, 56 foot diameter, white-domed planetarium resembling the rise of a cloud-shrouded Earth.
The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the history of aviation and space flight including Armstrong’s Gemini 8 spacecraft. Artifacts from the 1969 landing include a moon rock.
The nice collection is somewhat abused by the facility’s shabby exterior appearance. And, two of the three exterior displays sit in a far corner of the parking area looking like they were deposited there by the delivery truck driver...and forgotten.
I also was troubled by the inside presentation of his historic training airplane. I hangs, ignominiously, gallows-style; suspended vertically by its propeller and mostly hidden by other displays and the building structure.
Armstrong will be known forever as the first human to set foot on the Moon, yet, that component of the museum display is blandly designed and lighted. It deserves better.
After the Moon landing display area visitors are treated to a space-like, dark hallway which passes through some sort of twinkling light thing on the way to the “Astro-Theater”.
This is like having the build-up to a rousing piece of music happen after the song has ended. And, I’ve seen better video graphics on second-rate TV commercials.
Regardless of its shortcomings, the facility has a modest admission cost and is well worth the visit, especially by aviation, space and history enthusiasts.
Second grade students from a nearby town roar through the museum on a field-trip scavenger hunt. I’m not sure just how much learning was actually involved in this very noisy exercise.
Inquisitive visitors will be advised by museum telephone folks that the Ohio Historical Society is facing serious budget problems and those people are working with local officials to find alternative sponsors to keep the museum operating. I hope they are successful.