"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Small Fieldtrip for One Giant Space Enthusiast

As the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches (July 20th), I took advantage of the July 4th weekend to visit the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Ohio. Below are some photos and thoughts from the enjoyable afternoon I spent at this small but well-conceived museum.

The two-story venue includes a domed theatre, star-field display, and exhibits. It is both a tribute to the first man to set foot on the moon, and a celebration of the many Ohioans who have contributed their talent and industry to space exploration.

Below is easily the coolest exhibit: the Gemini VIII capsule flown by Neil Armstrong and David Scott.

Gemini VIII saw the first successful docking of two orbital spacecraft. Standing 6’2”, I took the above picture at eye-level. That means I would have been two inches too tall to even be eligible for the 1960s astronaut program. Of course, they weren’t looking for chubby English Majors anyway.

Next is a snapshot of my foot and a B.F. Goodrich tire. It becomes a novel photo when you consider the tire was used on the shuttle Endeavor (STS-68).

Below you see me posing Right Stuff-style next to the only existing F5D Skylancer.

The Skylancer directs my bold, envelope-pushing gaze toward a nearby Waffle House. In a sense, the single-seat jet is a predecessor of the space shuttle. Armstrong flew it as part of the short-lived Project Dyna-Soar. (With a name that tacky, the program probably never had a chance.) Predating the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo flights, the Skylancer was used in early testing to develop a winged reentry vehicle.

The above plaque, a touching gesture by NASA, displays two flags and a mission patch belonging to deceased astronaut Judith Resnik. They were recovered from the ill-fated Challenger (STS-51-L). Above the patches are portraits of all seven brave astronauts who perished aboard Challenger.

The Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum suffers from a somewhat remote location. But it is right off a major freeway (I-75), and can be combined with visits to other Ohio attractions, including some aerospace ones. The meaningful sampling of significant artifacts makes for a worthwhile trip for any space enthusiast.

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