Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The NASA insignia.For centuries, mankind has looked up at the night sky and contemplated visiting the stars and celestial bodies that exist in the space beyond our planet. While telescopes and other equipment allowed early astronomers to peer into the cosmos and advance our knowledge of the solar system, it was only in the last century that we have been able to launch objects, and people, into space.

This month marks the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar module landing on the moon and Ohioan Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the surface of the moon. In the years that have followed this remarkable achievement, advancements in science and technology have allowed for the development of equipment and vehicles that can be reused again and again rather than just one time. Since 1981, the U.S. has used a fleet of reusable space shuttles to ferry astronauts, satellites and other cargo into outer space.

Now, however, NASA is planning on retiring the shuttle fleet next year in order to focus on developing and building new rockets and crew capsules that will be used to send people to Mars and other space objects such as asteroids. The final shuttle flight – aboard the shuttle Endeavour – is scheduled to take place in February 2011, only a few months shy of the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight by the shuttle Columbia in April 1981.

Following the announcement that the shuttle fleet would be retired, NASA stated it would put the shuttles on public display, setting off a fierce competition among museums for the rights to one of the three remaining shuttles. Because of Ohio’s many contributions to air and space travel, lawmakers are working to ensure that one of the shuttles is put on display here in our state. To encourage the selection of Ohio, my colleagues and I in the Senate recently approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 28, which urges the President of the United States as well as NASA officials to select the National Museum of the Unites States Air Force in Dayton for the display of a retired shuttle orbiter.

Ohio is a logical choice for the location of one of the shuttles – the Wright Brothers and their work in Dayton pioneered modern flight and helped set the stage for man to travel into space. Our state has been called home by 24 men and women who have travelled into space, and the Glenn Research Center near Cleveland has spent decades developing science and technology for use in the aeronautics and space industries.

Besides our state’s many contributions to air and space travel, the National Air Force Museum is one of the top tourist destinations in Ohio, drawing more than one million visitors a year. The museum is the world’s oldest and largest dealing with military aviation, featuring more than 400 aerospace vehicles. The collection includes capsules from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, and adding a shuttle orbiter would further complement their already excellent collection of space equipment.

In addition, the Museum is already capable of accommodating a shuttle – a runway on the property is approved for landing the shuttle and its accompanying carrier, and the facility has one million square feet of climate-controlled exhibit space. The Museum also has a professional restoration staff that will be able to ensure the preservation of the shuttle for generations to come.

Ohio’s rich heritage in air and space has helped man achieve flight and travel into outer space. With the expected retirement of the space shuttle program next year, our state is a fitting choice to display one of the shuttles so it can be enjoyed by visitors and educate them about man’s journey into space. SCR 28 is currently under consideration in the Ohio House, and I am hopeful that members there will also approve it and encourage federal officials to recognize Ohio’s role in aviation history when selecting where to display the retired space shuttles.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at SD07@senate.state.oh.us or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.


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