Before he walked on the moon in 1969, Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong strolled the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University as an engineering student.
“It is really special that we had somebody famous who did something,” said LaTonya Kelly, a parent with a rambunctious three-year-old son who visited the Indianapolis Children’s Museum NASA display. “It makes you think that you can conquer anything, that you can be anything you want to be no matter where you’re from.”
In the lobby of the museum is the X-14-B aircraft that Armstrong flew ten times while practicing for his trip to the moon.
“It was a training vehicle to train test pilots and astronauts for the prototype for the lunar landing mission,” said Dr. Jeff Patchen, President/CEO of the Children’s Museum. “This gave them the sense of that vertical take off and landing that they were going to need for landing on the moon and then again jettisoning for take off.”
The jet featured the same type of propulsion technology that settled the Lunar Landing Module onto the surface of the moon and then letter powered its take off.
The X-14-B was rescued from a NASA scrap heap by Indiana collector Fred Ropkey who refurbished it and parked the craft at the museum.
A large photograph of Armstrong, another pilot and a technician was donated to the display by the retired astronaut.
“I’m proud that the United States put somebody on the moon first and to see what these guys did and literally fly into the great unknown, its pretty amazing what they did,” said Brian Knauer of Cincinnati who brought his son Jackson to the museum for this 7th birthday. “We were always taught in school that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon and being an Ohioan it was always pretty cool. It had that Midwestern feel to it.”
Armstrong was on the Purdue campus in October of 2007 to dedicate the Neil Armstrong Hall, dedicated to training the next generation of engineering.
“This building should be a crucible in which the advances that lie ahead are created,” Armstrong told the crowd that day.
Maybe it was youngsters like Jackson Knauer who Armstrong had in mind that day.
“I want to go in space,” said Jackson. When asked what he would have to do to go to space, Jackson said, “Well, I have plenty of the time to get ready.”
Purdue Student Government will hold a memorial service to honor Armstrong at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the statue of the astronaut outside the Neil A. Armstrong Hall of Engineering.