WAPAKONETA — The replica Gemini space capsule lifted off from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum Tuesday morning and set down at Auglaize Auto Body on Auglaize Street to undergo some restoration work.
The space capsule isn’t undergoing the same extensive restoration work the F5D-1 Skylancer did, said Chris Burton, executive director of the museum.
“It’s mostly paint,” he said. “They’re going to strip it down to the base and put a nice layer of paint intended to withstand the environment it will be subjected to.”
Burton said the last time the Gemini capsule was restored was around 2000. Every so often, someone would add a layer of outdoor paint to it, but Auglaize Auto Body will add a paint specifically made to withstand the constant weather, contact and sun to which the capsule is subjected.
Joe Patterson, owner of Auglaize Auto Body, said Ohio History Connection, the organization financing the restoration, reached out asking if he would be interested in doing the restoration work. Patterson sent the organization a quote — $7,000 per capsule — and it was quickly accepted.
Patterson said they will ultimately restore both the Gemini and Apollo capsules, beginning with the Gemini. He and his employees will strip the paint completely off both capsules and do some necessary repairs. They will repaint the Gemini cockpit so it’s more historically accurate and repaint the exterior.
“Everybody is excited about it, especially me,” Patterson said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not many body shops can say they’ve dome something like this. We’re donating a ton of labor to them just for the chance to do it.”
Scott Bowersock, of Bowersock Signs-N-Lines in Wapakoneta, will be painting the hand lettering and American flag that was on the original.
“That’s a neat deal,” he said. “When anybody ever asks where you’re from they say, ‘Wapaka-what?’ Then when you say [it is the] birthplace of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, they get it.”
Patterson is estimating it will take six to eight weeks to complete the Gemini project.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.