Posted on October 08, 2018 by Janet Steinberg
Wapakoneta: Honoring America's

On October 12 First Man, depicting one of the most dangerous missions in history, will light up the silver screen in theaters around the country.   This biographical drama is the riveting story behind Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon, one of the most dangerous missions in history.

By now you are probably wondering what a movie production is doing in a travel column. Please allow me to give you the answer to that question in one word…Wapakoneta. 

 

WAPAKONETA, OHIO…POPULATION: 9,867 

 

Once again, you must be wondering…What is Wapakoneta?  What is in Wapakoneta?  Why would anyone want to go to Wapakoneta?  This time, the answer is in two words…Neil Armstrong. 

 

 

MUSEUM PHOTO OF ARMSTRONG’S FOOTPRINT ON THE MOON

 

Neil Armstrong, the first civilian astronaut and the first man on the moon, was a native son of Wapakoneta, Ohio (approximately 65 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio and 90 mile south of Toledo).   The Armstrong Air and Space Museum honors his achievements.  Opened on the third anniversary of the lunar landing (July 20, 1972), the museum was designed to resemble a futuristic moon base.  This moon-like structure, that seems to be rising out of Interstate I-75, is a beautiful site to behold, whether gleaming in the sunlight, or at dusk and nightfall when the dome glows white.

 

 

ARMSTRONG AIR & SPACE MUSEUM, A SIGHT...AND A SITE...TO BEHOLD

 

As you approach the museum you will be greeted by two outdoor displays that are open yearlong.  The first of these displays is the F5D Skylancer, the experimental airplane Neil Armstrong flew as a test pilot.  Only four F5Ds were produced. 

 

 

ARMSTRONG’S EXPERIMENTAL F5D AIRPLANE 

 

Then you’ll approach replicas of the Apollo and Gemini capsules. These replica capsules allow visitors to sit inside a Gemini spacecraft and peer into an Apollo capsule.

 

 

REPLICAS OF THE GEMINI AND APOLLO CAPSULES

 

Outstanding features of the museum include many one-of-a-kind artifacts such as the Gemini VIII spacecraft, a moon rock, Neil Armstrong’s Gemini and Apollo spacesuits and the very airplane in which Neil Armstrong learned to fly. The Gemini VIII was Neil Armstrong’s first spacecraft.  He and David Scott conducted the first space rendezvous and docking in 1966.

 

 

THE GEMINI SPACECRAFT

 

On the Gemini VIII mission, Neil Armstrong wore a space suit for 11- hours until the crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.   Armstrong’s Apollo spacesuit, his second spacesuit, weighed 190-lbs. on earth but would weigh just 32-lbs. on the moon because the moon has 1/6 of earth’s gravity.

 

 

NEIL ARMSTRONG'S APOLLO SPACE SUIT

 

While on the moon, Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 collected a lunar sample…the NASA term for a moon rock.  Returning from the moon, the astronauts (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) had to go through customs, just as we regular folks do.  Their customs declaration showed that their flight route was from Cape Kennedy, to the Moon, returning to Honolulu on July 24, 1969.  Their cargo was “moon rock and moon dust samples”.

 

 

APOLLO 11’s LUNAR SAMPLE…aka MOON ROCK

 

In 2011, the museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, the highest national recognition for a museum.  A visit to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum is a visit to (in Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s words) “magnificent desolation”. 

Since that moment on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 had reached the moon, and the late Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface, Armstrong has been my hero. Nightly, I would look up at the moon in utter disbelief that a man walked up there.

 

 

WORLD HEADLINES BEGAN IN WAPAKONETA, OHIO

 

 In the early 1970’s, hero worship became reality as I was privileged to have Neil Armstrong as my dinner partner at a party in Cincinnati, Ohio.  On this most memorable evening of my life, I found myself sitting next to a humble, modest, engaging, soft-spoken gentleman that shall forever remain my legendary Man on the Moon.

 

JANET STEINBERG AND NEIL ARMSTRONG IN THE 1970s

 

To this day, millions of people will never forget the day that the world paused for a brief period when Armstrong spoke the words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

 

To this day, I will never forget the words Neil spoke to me when I asked him the following question:  ‘I know what you said to the world, but what were you really thinking when you put your foot down on the moon?’  Neil smiled his boyish grin and replied:  “I was thinking…You’ve gone this far baby, don’t screw it up now.”

 

Janet Steinberg, winner of 46-travel writing awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.

 

 

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