Explore the final frontier from the comfort of Ohio at these space exploration hotspots…
Ohio’s mark on aviation and space exploration can’t be understated. Before John Glenn orbited the Earth and before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, they both cut their teeth in the Buckeye State. Ohio’s rich contributions to space exploration continue today, and if you’re looking for places celebrating this space heritage, the state has more than a few. These are the best places in Ohio for any lover of space exploration…
National Museum of the United States Air Force (Dayton, OH)
Outside the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, you’d be very hard pressed to find a more meaningful collection of airplanes and aerospace artifacts than the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Their addition of a fourth hangar finally gave the museum the square footage necessary for displaying all their presidential aircraft as well as their space collection.
The highlight of the Allan and Malcolm Lockheed and Glenn Martin Space Gallery is their Space Shuttle Exhibit which features NASA’s very first shuttle trainer (Crew Compartment Trainer aka CCT-1). Visitors can walk through the payload bay of the trainer and peek inside for an idea of what the space shuttle looks like on the inside.
In addition to the shuttle trainer, you’ll also find various NASA rockets, a Gemini capsule, and the capsule of Apollo 15.
Armstrong Air & Space Museum (Wapakoneta, OH)
Wapakoneta, OH is one of those small towns too often bypassed by travelers as they barrel up and down I-75, but this little town was home to one of America’s great heroes… Neil Armstrong. Within just days of his famous “Small Step for Man,” plans were initiated to build a museum in Armstrong’s hometown, and 3 years to the day of his moonwalk, the Armstrong Air & Space Museum opened for visitors.
Conveniently located just off I-75, the Armstrong Air & Space Museum honors not only Neil Armstrong, but also serves as “a repository of Ohio’s aeronautical history and a monument to Ohio’s contribution to aviation and space exploration.”
With plenty of excellent information, priceless artifacts, and hands-on exhibits to keep the children (and adults) more than entertained, the Armstrong Air & Space Museum is the museum you just can’t afford to miss on a trip along I-75.
COSI (Columbus, OH)
If you grew up anywhere near Columbus, chances are you visited COSI on school field trips and have been in love with the place ever since. While it definitely sparks the curiosity of children, COSI is fun for all ages (especially their 21+ events) and absolutely perfect for families wishing to expose their children to the wonder of space exploration.
COSI’s “Space” exhibit teaches kids (and adults) about the universe and our role in it with fun, interactive, and informative displays and activities. Test your hands at one of their simulators and see if you can land the space shuttle or scoop up some rocks on Mars. For a real out-of-this-world experience, spring for a ticket to the planetarium as well.
Great Lakes Science Center- NASA Glenn Visitor Center (Cleveland, OH)
Nestled along the banks of Lake Erie next to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the Great Lakes Science Center, one of Cleveland’s greatest tourist attractions. Here you’ll find the NASA Glenn Visitor Center. Named for the Ohio native John Glenn who became the first man to orbit the Earth in his famous Friendship 7 capsule. An official NASA visitor center, it’s one part history and one part education. Visitors learn the ins-and-outs of space travel like just how astronauts live day-to-day on the International Space Station and what it might look like to survive a trip to Mars and back.
Of course, there are plenty of historic artifacts, many from Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission as well as the Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module, and more.
International Women’s Air and Space Museum (Cleveland, OH)
Just on the other side of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame you’ll find another excellent museum for fans of aviation and space exploration. The International Women’s Air and Space Museum pays homage to the extensive contributions made to aviation and space exploration by females.
The free museum features multiple displays and exhibits honoring the role women have played in our quest to explore space from the listing of all the women who have ventured into space to a real-life switchboard from NASA’s mission control in Houston. It’s also not uncommon for an astronaut or two to pop in for visits and presentations.
No matter which area of Ohio you’re visiting, chances are there’s a great museum dedicated to space exploration nearby.