A Visit to Two Museums
Welcome to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. It opened in 1972 to honor Wapak’s hometown hero, Neil Armstrong. In 1969 he was the first man to set foot on the moon. Take a quick tour of some of the museum’s hot spots.
This is the first plane Neil flew. Neil either walked or rode his bike to an airport just outside of Wapak to take flight lessons. Would you believe Neil learned to fly at age 15, and that he got his pilot’s license before he got his driver’s license? He was 16 years old.
This plane sits outside in the museum parking lot. It’s one of the real planes Neil flew over Korea. He was a Navy pilot during the Korean War. Neil flew 72 missions, mostly in 1951 and 1952. He was 22 years old in 1952 when he left the Navy to return to Purdue University.
This is the real Gemini VIII. In 1966 Neil orbited the earth in this spaceship with David Scott. They almost died in it too. After docking with a satellite, the ship began to spin. After undocking, Neil had 30 seconds to get the ship under control. He made it! Maybe you can too. Test your skills in the museum’s simulator. Don’t forget to look inside the capsule. Can you imagine sitting in those seats for 75 hours? That’s 3 days and 3 hours. That’s a long time in those little seats! Neil was 36.
This is Neil’s real space suit. It went to the moon with him in 1969, but he never wore it there. The on, in Wapak was his spare. The suit he actually wore on the moon is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Both suits weigh about 190 pounds. They’re made of 21 layers of synthetics, neoprene rubber, and metalized polyester films. Back in 1969 the suit cost about $100,000. In today’s dollars that’s about $670,000. But, the suit was like wearing a personal spaceship. It protected Neil and Buzz from the dangers of the lunar environment, like extreme hot and cold, no air, ultraviolet radiation, and micrometeorites flying 10 miles per second at you. It was a very good thing!
After you finish touring the Armstrong Museum, head south on I75 towards Dayton, Ohio. You can tour the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This is an aerial view of the museum. It’s huge! I picked 4 of their exhibits.
Do you remember the Wright brothers? This exhibit showcases their 1909 Military Flyer. It was the first military heavier-than-air flying machine ever. That’s a mouthful! In 1909 it sold for $30,000. This isn’t the real plane, but, it’s a great reproduction put together in 1955. The engine was donated by Orville. The chains, sprockets, and propellers was donated by the Wright Brothers’ estate.
In 1930 the War Department thought about hiring female pilots, but thought they were too high strung for the job. By 1942 men were off flying WWII combat missions, and the Department needed women to pick up the slack. The Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASP was born. Experienced women pilots now took over service flights within the US for the War Department. By 1943 there were 1000 WASP’s serving their county. They broke ground for today’s lady pilots.
This is the Lockheed JetStar. This star of a plane carried presidents, high ranking government officials, and visiting leaders from other countries. The Air Force bought 6 JetStars in 1961. This JetStar was never officially Air Force 1, but it carried Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. It was retired in July 1987 after 26years of service. It truly was a star of a plane!
In July of 1971 this vehicle made it to the moon. It is the Apollo 15 command module, Endeavor. It was the fourth spaceship (of 6) to make it to the moon. The trip took 12 days total. The astronauts were only there for 67 hours. That’s almost 3 days (5 hours short). The astronauts were supposed to do lunar science experiments. They also got to ride on the first lunar rover, AKA moon buggy. Wouldn’t you love to rocket to the moon, then take a ride in a moon buggy? Would you believe Endeavor is checked out to the Air Force Museum, kind of like a library book? It’s on loan from Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
If you enjoyed reading and looking at planes and spaceships, schedule a trip to my favorite museums, or one near you. There’s so much to see and do! You’ll love it!
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