Since our existence on Earth, humans have observed birds in flight during the day and gazed in wonder at the jewels glittering above their heads in the dark.
The very first time humanity soared with birds was to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (one of my most favorite areas on this planet). Ohio brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright have taken to the skies for a glorious, brief moment in time. The beginning of modern aviation and the gateway to another young boy from Ohio, who, just 33 years later, at the age of 6, took his first flight with his father and ignited the spark and love of flight.
Neil Armstrong lived with his family for a time in Warren, Ohio when he was young. His father took him to an airfield at 2553 Parkman Road, Warren, where he was treated to his first plane trip. Currently, the location of the old airstrip is under a shopping center with an old Kmart building built on the previous runway. It was the starting point (don’t worry about the pun) of young Neil’s fascination with theft. He then obtained his pilot’s license and 33 years after his first flight he became the first man to climb to the moon. Located in a memorial near McDonald’s, is a half-scale model of the Apollo 11 lunar lander. It’s a stunning tribute to mark a proud American moment in time.
There is a rich history in our region for space exploration that many of our young people may not realize. So, with the new excitement generated by the exploration of Mars underway, why not take the opportunity to let your kids know how much NASA history is interwoven in our neighboring state of Ohio.
In addition to the First Flight Memorial in Warren, you can also visit the childhood home of John Glenn, a former US Senator from Ohio and also the first American to orbit Earth in space. This home is located in New Concord, Ohio. There is also the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, which has many exhibits, including a moon rock.
Judy Resnik of Akron, Ohio, was one of six women accepted into the space program and the second American to travel to space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. Tragedy followed, however, as she was also aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded. Myself, along with thousands of students across the United States, watched this event live in a classroom because it was also the flight that first teacher Christa McAuliffe was on on. Gasps of horror followed by silence invaded the classroom until the teacher quickly turned off the television.
Disasters and disappointments aside, I’m sure the initial space race was an exciting time to be alive and watching events unfold. The Cold War era is a topic so rarely talked about that young people today probably have little idea of what was at stake for the United States and space exploration. The disappointment of losing the race to bring the first man into space to the Soviets, the joy of the words “It’s a small step for man, a giant leap for mankind” Apollo capsule fatalities 1 and Challenger and Columbia shuttles are just a few of the ups and downs our nation has endured in the race for the skies.
Kids today are learning about the International Space Station and how counties work together for a common goal and may not realize how new this concept is. In fact, even the phrase “Houston, we had a problem” is notorious as it was replaced by “Houston, we have a problem” in the movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks and is often cited by young people who don’t. knowing said it or what it actually refers to. The Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, so many children under the age of 15 do not have a firsthand account of some of the most exciting and dangerous events of the 20th century. In fact, I was even a little shocked to learn that Ohio alone has had 25 natives turned astronauts who have flown almost 80 space missions.
So take a moment to wander down to Warren, where the man who walked the moon first learned his love of aviation and then lost himself in the story of some of the most outstanding accomplishments of the man. “Why did they leave?” children might ask, “Because it was there,” we can answer.