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03-01-03: Born explorers
Ohio has produced large number of astronauts, others hungry for exploration and adventure

Standard Correspondent

    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 the astronauts.
    "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 said.
    "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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