SANDUSKY — NASA’s Plum Brook Station has been renamed in honor of the humble man who was first to set foot on the moon.
The Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility was dedicated Wednesday in a ceremony that included NASA’s administrator, Sen. Bill Nelson, who was also an astronaut, as well as U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, other Ohio leaders and Armstrong’s son, Mark.
“He was the kind of person you would want to hold up — even if he had not been such an extraordinary fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut. That’s why I think this is so appropriate. I know that now this story will now be able to be told,” Portman said.
It was a bill from Portman that authorized the renaming.
Mark Armstrong said his father was a great role model.
“He really is a great example, and one that we always strive to be as good as we can be. For my dad, one of the things, when I look back, at every turn, he always tried to do the right thing,” he said.
The renaming was bi-partisan, Portman said.
“By naming after Neil Armstrong it gives the center a little more stature, in my view. The test facility gets a little more stature. When Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) is fighting for the funding on the House side and I’m fighting for it on the Senate side, having that Armstrong name is not a bad thing,” he said.
“NASA brings people together,” he said. “Look around this center right here. There’s a lot of aging infrastructure. We need to update that infrastructure and that’s in every NASA facility across the country.”
Portman said that Armstrong would not be thrilled with the dedication and new name.
“I’ve got to be honest, though. He would not be excited about this name,” Portman said. “He would be fine with it, but he would not be excited, and that is all the more reason for us to have done it.”
Portman recalled being with Armstrong at the Capitol. As they walked past the mural of the moon landing, he mentioned that Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the only living people pictured in Capitol murals.
Armstrong didn’t comment, and stared down at his shoes.
“He was so humble. He didn’t want people to be impressed by it. It wasn’t ever about him. It was about the mission,” Portman said. “He was ultimately a test pilot. That’s how he viewed himself, as a test pilot. He used to talk about being strapped onto a very large gas tank and being thrown into the sky.”
In addition to facility administrators, other speakers included Kaptur, and U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan and Anthony Gonzalez.
Officially renamed in December 2020, Wednesday’s dedication ceremony was delayed due to the pandemic. The dedication included the unveiling of the stone marker officially naming the facility.
Armstrong worked at the facility early in his career.
“This facility is a vital part of our region and it was great to see the bipartisan recognition of the work performed there for our country. There is no better name for the center. Neil Armstrong was an American hero and Ohio native,” State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, said.
The facility is located at the eastern edge of her district.
Located on 6,400 acres, it employs more than 100 engineers, technicians, administrative staff and support personnel.
The facility was first used by the War Department in 1941 as a munitions plant to test new technology.
Today, the facility tests full-scale in-space vehicles and rocket engines. It also includes the innovative simulation technologies like vacuum and acoustic chambers and a spacecraft shaker system. The new NASA Electric Aircraft Testbed is also located there.