WAPAKONETA — The Armstrong Air and Space Museum kicked off the Summer Moon Festival with a groundbreaking ceremony for a new expansion.
“In 1903, the Wright brothers flew the Wright Flyer for an amazing 4,000 feet,” said Dan Graf, first vice president of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum administration. “Less than a lifetime later, another milestone was reached. Apollo 11 flew to the moon and back, a total distance of 477,000 miles. In less than 70 years, that’s how much progress had been made in aviation.”
The Wright brothers showed their courage by being the first to fly, and Wapakoneta’s Neil Armstrong showed his courage by being the first to set foot on the moon.
“The impact of that journey was felt here in Wapakoneta,” Graf said. “Many businesses and streets used space names and spaces logos in their businesses because we were proud of their native son.”
The annual Summer Moon Festival continues on that theme with events through the weekend. The celebration continues with a race, fishing derby, children’s events, weiner dog races, a zip line, astronaut talks and more. Events take place throughout Wapakoneta and at the museum.
On July 20, 1969, Gov. Jim Rhodes proposed the creation of a museum to remember all Ohioans who challenged the confines of gravity. The state pledged $500,00 to the museum project and Rhodes challenged the county to match the state so it could be built, which they did. Ground was broken for the museum on April 16, 1970, Graf said.
“Here at the museum, we too invest in dreams,” said Brittany Venturella, museum curator. “We work to inspire generations from across the nation, and hopefully the world, to discover and explore the unknown; To collaborate and take on new challenges.”
The expansion project will include a 1,600-square-foot classroom with upgraded technology, she said. The museum will offer more digital learning experiences as well. Educators will film programs in the new classroom which will be made available online, Venturella said. Changes will also be made some of the exhibits in the Early Space Gallery. A F5D Skylancer cockpit will be added to the Early Space Gallery as a starting point to talking about the important role test pilots played in the space program, she said.
“We will also be featuring two statues out front of both Neil as a boy and than during the Apollo program to show the journey of Neil Armstrong from his time in Wapakoneta to when he was landing on the moon,” she said. “That’s a way to welcome people to the story of the museum and what we have to share.”
Wapakoneta Mayor Thomas Stinebaugh, who is a member of the museum board, said the funding goal for this phase of expansions was $1.5 million. The goal is to have this phase complete for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission next year.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362