WAPAKONETA, Ohio — His name is known around the world, and if you're old enough, you'll remember exactly where you were when Neil Armstrong made history 50 years ago.
On July 16, 1969, the three-man crew of Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a huge Saturn V rocket, and four days later, Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon.
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong said as the ghostly images were televised live back to earth.
Now five decades later people are reliving that historic event through the movie "First Man," and a number of documentaries detailing the manned space flight program and President John F. Kennedy's pledge in September 1962 that the United States would put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the decade was through.
Armstrong became an instant hero in 1969, but his career as an astronaut, test pilot, and aviation instructor began much earlier in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio.
Here, visitors have a chance to learn more about the man and his accomplishments at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum.
Located just off of Interstate 75, you'll find an odd-looking bunker with a bright white dome in the centre and short concrete walls radiating out.
A vintage jet and mock-ups of Gemini and Apollo capsules in front of the building are a sign that you've found the museum.
Dante Centuori, the museum's executive director, said the building was designed around 1970 and the architect wanted it to look like a moon base.
"It has that feel," he said. "I don't think you'll find too many structures that look like this."
The museum opened on July 20, 1972, on the third anniversary of the first moon landing.
"It's been here almost 50 years and it has been a celebration of achievements in air and space in Ohio, most notably with Wapakoneta's favourite son, Neil Armstrong."
The Skylancer jet in front of the museum is one of three vehicles here that were actually flown by Armstrong during his career.
Inside the museum you'll also find the Aeronca Champ airplane in which Armstrong learned to fly, and the Gemini 8 capsule that Armstrong and Dave Scott flew in orbit in 1966. It is the actual capsule used for the first docking in space — an incident that went wrong and almost cost the astronauts their lives. The event was featured as one of the most dramatic scenes in the First Man movie.
Winding your way through the museum you'll see other artifacts from the space program and an actual moon rock.
Many of the displays focus on Armstrong's career and his life. He was born in 1930 and died in 2012.
Centuori said Armstrong's life was wrapped up in the fabric of Wapakoneta and the conversations of people who live there every day.
"People here will tell you they were at his mother's house when Apollo 11 splashed down. You run into people who have that first-person experience," he said.
Museum visitor Andrew Dewar of Dayton, Ohio said it was well worth the stop to learn more about Armstrong.
"There's a lot of focus on his big mission, Apollo 11, and it's really neat seeing how it all came together, and all the bits and pieces of his life that you really don't get to hear a lot about," he said.
For Mike Shank of Muncie, Ind., his visit prompted vivid memories of when he heard the news of the first moon landing in 1969.
"We were heading towards New York, I remember the stretch of highway when we heard it on the radio," Shank said as he strolled through the exhibition with his wife.
He said the museum had been on his bucket list for years.
"I'm sorry it took me this long to get here," he said.
The museum gets about 40,000 visitors each year, but Centuori said he expects thousands more each day around the time of the anniversary celebrations in July.
"We're going to recognize the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 from July 12 to the 21. There will be things going on like hot air balloon races. There will be a parade that's going to retrace the first part of the homecoming parade in 1969," he said.
"We're going to recognize the 50th anniversary of the launch with special rocket programs here at the museum on July 16. The Summer Moon festival will kick off downtown on Wednesday night and there will be music, bands, and entertainment. A lot of it will have a moon theme."
NASA is also loaning additional exhibits to the museum this summer, and a number of astronauts who flew on the space shuttle will make appearances.
At your end of the tour of the museum, you'll find a well stocked gift shop with space-related items. Take time to look at a world map near the exit that shows where visitors have travelled from, and add a pin of your own.
If you go.....
Admission Rates: Adults $8.00, Seniors (60+) $7.00, Children (6-12) $4.00, Children (5 and under) Free
Location: 500 Apollo Dr., just west of I-75 at exit 111 (Bellefontaine Street) in Wapakoneta, Ohio, approximately 60 miles north of Dayton, 90 miles south of Toledo.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press