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|03-01-03: Born explorers
|Ohio has produced large number of astronauts, others hungry for exploration and
By JEAN ZEHRINGER GIESIGE
WAPAKONETA - There is nothing about the state of Ohio that would lead
anyone to believe that its sons and daughters are given to flights of fancy.
Mostly flat, mostly productive, thoroughly Midwestern, Ohio is
decidedly earthbound. Yet there is something about this stout little state that leads
people to look upward, and onward.
More astronauts have come from Ohio than from any other state except
New York, said John Zwez, director of the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in
Wapakoneta. And of course, Ohioans' fascination with the sky and space did not begin with
"When you look at the fact that we had the Wright Brothers and
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, all growing up within a 60-mile radius
in our state, that points to the amazing contribution made by Ohioans to aviation and the
space program," Zwez said.
Zwez will speak of those contributions at a presentation on the role
Ohioans have played in aviation and space exploration, on March 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the
Mercer County Historical Society, 130 E. Market St. in Celina. The program, part of the
local celebration of Ohio's bicentennial, is partially funded by a grant from the Ohio
Humanities Council, and is sponsored locally by the Mercer County Historical Society and
the county's committee for the Ohio bicentennial.
Beyond the Wright brothers, there were many others who worked to escape
the earth, Zwez said.
"There were the Korn brothers, from Jackson Center, who made early
attempts at flight," he said. "And many people don't know that a man from Van
Wert, Walter Hinton, crossed the Atlantic before Lindbergh."
Hinton, the pilot of a four-man crew, flew from Newfoundland to the
English coast in 1919 in an NC4, a Navy plane, Zwez said.
"He was a famous aviator of his day, and he taught Admiral Byrd
how to fly," he said.
Ohioans' fascination with flight grew and evolved into the nation's
space program, Zwez said. Ohioan John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth, was one of
the nation's first group of astronauts. Many others followed; there have been 24
astronauts who claim Ohio as their home state.
They include Jim Lovell (hometown: Cleveland), who was the commander of
the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission; Judy Resnick, an Akron native, who lost her life on the
space shuttle Challenger; and shuttle astronauts Carl Walz (Cleveland) and Tom Henricks
(Bryan). Another Ohio astronaut, David Lowe of Cleveland, died in a training accident
before he had the chance to take part in a mission, Zwez said.
Ohioans' impact on the space program goes far beyond the astronauts, he
"With Wright Patterson Air Force Base so instrumental in training
astronauts, and NASA's John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, there are many, many
Ohioans involved in the program," he said. "The space program is so extensive,
and contributions come from so many people. When Neil Armstrong went to the moon, it was
estimated that 250,000 people were part of the effort."
Dominic Libano, a glass-blower from Toledo, developed Q-fibers as an
insulation for his glass-blowing equipment. Those Q-fibers are now used to make the
protective tiles that line the space shuttle, Zwez said. Rita Rapp, a nutritionist from
Piqua, developed a method of preserving food for space flight so that it wouldn't crumble.
"They were having a problem with the food, because the way it was
preserved made it crumble," Zwez said. "Little crumbs of food floating around on
the space shuttle is not a good thing."
Astronauts and inventors, technicians and engineers all play a role in
aeronautics and space exploration, Zwez said.
"Contributions have come from many, many Ohians," he said.
"It's amazing, when you think about it."
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