Ohioan Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon in 1969, and 50 years later anyone can visit the lunar surface - virtually.
Visitors to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will be able to do just that this weekend if they strap on headsets in the facility’s space gallery located in the fourth hangar. Two virtual reality activities are part of a myriad of programming the museum has planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s trip to the moon Saturday.
“It’s such a big deal is because that event was such a tremendous cultural and technical achievement,” said Doug Lantry, historian and curator for the museum’s space gallery. “It was a huge worldwide media event, then, and it is becoming a worldwide media event now, because that step off of our planet to the next place was so so important and worth remembering.”
Activities will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the museum. Families who attend events will also have the opportunity to meet characters from the Star Wars movies and see demonstrations on rockets, special artifacts displays, special archives and more, according to the museum.
The museum will provide visitors materials to build and launch rockets on the grounds from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until supplies last, according to the museum.
The Air Force Museum on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is home to spacesuits and spacecraft, including the Apoll0 15 command module which was used by the first all Air Force crew, said Lantry.
Along with other activities at the museum, visitors will also have the chance to visit former astronaut Mark Brown. Brown, a former Air Force colonel, previously worked at Wright-Patt and made his first trip into space in 1989.
Having the opportunity to meet astronauts is a unique opportunity that museum educator Cindy Henry encouraged visitors to take advantage of.
“I’ve met quite a few of them and it gives me goosebumps,” Henry said. “I try to translate that to the students … (and) try to get them just as excite about it.”
The Air Force Museum’s celebration is one of many throughout Ohio set to commemorate the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and Armstrong’s contributions to the moon landing.
About an hour north of Dayton in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, the museum named after the first man on the moon will also host a series of events leading up to the anniversary. The Armstrong Air & Space Museum will wrap up a 10-day celebration this weekend that includes a concert, games, astronaut meet-and-greets and more.
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary, the museum also made some upgrades. The museum is primarily located underground but excavators were able to add a new classroom to it that was recently completed.
Gov. Mike DeWine was in Wapakoneta last weekend to help dedicate and unveil a new statue of Armstrong at the museum. The life-size bronze statue of Armstrong is located near the entrance of the museum.
“It’s really interesting just to hear the stories about him,” museum director Dante Centuori said. “He’s really woven into the fabric of this community.”
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