Monday July 20, 2009

The Moon Landing and Ohio's Future

Forty years after an Ohio native became the first man on the moon, Ohio is looking to its rich history of flight to inspire a new generation to lead aerospace innovation in the 21st century.

Janet Bednarek teaches aviation and space history at the University of Dayton and is a National Aviation Hall of Fame board member. This op-ed was published in the July 18, 2009, edition of the Dayton Daily News.

Anniversaries offer us an opportunity to reflect on the past, but they also shine a light on the future.

On July 20, the world marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first time humans set foot on the moon. In June, Dayton marked the 100th anniversary of the great parade honoring the Wright brothers upon their return home after stunning much of the world with their public flights in Europe and near Washington, D.C.

Both anniversaries celebrate events that were made possible, in part or in whole, by people and technologies associated with Ohio. And they should remind us that Ohio, and the city of Dayton, have a rich history of entrepreneurship and technological innovation.

The Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong, and the airplane easily come to mind when reflecting on these anniversaries. Perhaps less well known is the important work on rocket engine technology done at what is now the NASA Glenn Research facility in Cleveland.

Today, around Dayton and throughout Ohio, many individuals and groups are working to draw on that heritage to chart a course into the 21st century.  During the week before the Apollo anniversary, several aviation/aerospace events will take place in the Dayton area.  This shows how much many people — both locally and nationally — already recognize the important air and space heritage of the city and, in some respects, can envision a possible future.

On July 14, the U.S. Air, Trade and Technology Expo opened. On Friday, July 17, a dozen Apollo astronauts — including the first two and the last two on the moon — gathered in Dayton for the National Aviation Hall of Fame's President's Dinner to receive the NAHF Spirit of Flight Award. And then over the weekend, the Vectren Dayton Air Show took place at Dayton International Airport.

Local leaders hope this burst of activity helps to reshape the image of Dayton and Ohio. Instead of the Rust Belt and closed factories, people will think of aerospace, technology and — most importantly — innovation. Initiatives such as the creation of an Ohio Aerospace Institute, Dayton's Tech Town and plans to strengthen STEM education also speak to an emerging vision for Dayton and Ohio.

The extensive aviation and aerospace heritage of the city and the state offers a strong foundation upon which to build this image. Throughout the 20th century, individuals and organizations in Ohio helped the United States step into a future of flight — atmospheric and space. Dayton and Ohio boosters hope that the heritage of those activities will inspire a new generation to help the city, the state and the nation take the first steps into whatever future the 21st century might offer.

For more information, contact Meagan Pant, assistant director of news and communications, at 937-229-3256 or