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Honoring the Life of Neil Armstrong: UC Signs NASA Space Act Agreement

The University of Cincinnati has announced a forward-looking effort to promote space-based research while also looking back on the life of the first man on the moon.

Date: 11/6/2013 1:00:00 PM
By: John Bach
Phone: (513) 556-5224
Photos By: Dottie Stover; Video by Ashley Kempher

UC ingot  

The University of Cincinnati  today announced the vision for a Neil Armstrong Space Science Institute and an important  research partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center while also honoring the life of Neil Armstrong, who taught at UC from 1971 to 1979. Armstrong died in August 2012.

In honor of Armstrong, UC:
  • Opened an on-campus exhibit 
  • Unveiled a bas-relief honoring Armstrong for Rhodes Hall
  • Launched the vision for the Neil Armstrong Space Science Institute
  • Signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Ames Research Center
  • Revealed a commemorative website celebrating Armstrong’s career
  • Started a new award and scholarship in his honor

Mark Armstrong speaks at UC in front of the bas-relief depicting his  father Neil Armstrong on campus..
Mark Armstrong speaks at UC in front of the bas-relief depicting his father Neil Armstrong on campus.

"Although Neil Armstrong was a private and unassuming hero who preferred not to be in the spotlight, the University of Cincinnati community wanted to do something to honor his memory and his achievements,” said UC President Santa Ono. “We wanted to do it in a way that takes into account how we at the University of Cincinnati knew him best — as a teacher and an engineer, as a pilot and astronaut. 

“The relief at Rhodes, the scholarships, our partnership with NASA and our other activities are all intended to carry on his legacy of probing new frontiers and inspiring the pursuit of scientific inquiry.”

News media and special guests — including the family of Neil Armstrong, the world-renowned astronaut who took humanity’s first step onto the moon—previewed an on-campus exhibit titled “Neil Armstrong: The Life and Flight of a Reluctant Hero” on Wednesday, Nov. 6.  

Designed by the UC Architect’s office, the exhibit  runs through Nov. 27 in UC’s Philip M. Meyers Jr. Memorial Gallery in the Steger Student Life Center. Open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the exhibit features artifacts donated to UC by the Armstrong family, including a space mask. plaques awarded to Armstrong and a lunar log book.

Also on display in the gallery is a life-size bas-relief plaque depicting Armstrong that will be permanently installed in the entrance to UC’s Rhodes Hall, through which he passed each morning.  The plaque, sculpted by local artist John Leon, is a gift of the class of 2013 and is expected to be installed in Rhodes early in 2014. 

Armstrong’s family — his wife Carol Armstrong and his two sons, Rick and Mark Armstrong, along with Mark’s son, Andrew — helped unveil the plaque as part of the ceremony. 

UC President Santa Ono signs the Space Act Agreement with NASA's Ames Research Center, represented by UC graduate Thomas Davis, Eng '83, Chief of Aviation Systems Division,
UC President Santa Ono signs the Space Act Agreement with NASA's Ames Research Center, represented by UC graduate Thomas Davis, Eng '83, Chief of Aviation Systems Division.

“The thing we hear a lot from people is the inspirational quality that they got from something Dad did,” said Rick Armstrong, who was 12 years old in 1969 and vividly recalls the moment his father stepped onto the lunar surface. “For so many of those people, when you look at what they have done, it is really impressive. When I think of what his legacy is, that’s what I think about. What I see in what the university is doing here is that it is just a logical natural extension of hoping to continue to provide that inspirational value for people to go on and do their own great things.”

Younger brother Mark Armstrong, who was 6 years old at the time of the Apollo XI flight, agreed.

“We are very honored that the university has taken the time to put together a very nice gallery in remembrance of Dad and his involvement at UC as a teacher. It is very thoughtful work that has been done,” said Mark Armstrong. “But I have to say that I’m even more excited about the Neil Armstrong Space Science Institute and the possible synergies that can exist between the university and NASA and what that can do in terms of providing opportunities to students for being innovative in the future.”

UC President Santa Ono assembled the Neil Armstrong Commemorative Task Force to honor the former aerospace professor.

Growing from the efforts of the task force along with a new research partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, UC also announced the vision for the Neil Armstrong Space Science Institute, which will include three components:
• Promoting interdisciplinary space-based research in labs between faculty, students and NASA  as well as serve as a repository of knowledge and expertise in space and earth systems
• Leading education of disciplines related to space science and engineering education as well as encouraging students to pursue degrees in those areas
• Management and preservation of space-related research data with an on-site research and learning commons

The research portion of the Neil Armstrong Space Science Institute hinges on a new relationship known as a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

The relationship between the two institutions sprang from an initial discussion between President Ono and UC graduate Thomas Davis, Chief of Aviation Systems Division at NASA’s Ames Research Center. It was then carried further following discussions between Ono and Simon “Pete” Worden, NASA’s Ames Research Center Director.

The special exhibit celebrating Neil Armstrong's life is open to the public Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 27.
The special exhibit celebrating Neil Armstrong's life is open to the public Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 27.

The Space Act Agreement (SAA) clears the way for collaboration between UC researchers and NASA experts in four key areas that will cut across multiple colleges at UC:  Intelligent Systems and Structures; Nanomedicine and Biomedicine; Environment and Sustainability; and Analytics and Cyber Security.

UC officials expect all four areas of collaboration to be up and running within five years, but the initial relationship will begin with Intelligent Systems and Structures. More specifically, the first focus will be on research involving Unmanned Aerial 
Vehicles (UAVs).

"We at NASA's Ames Research Center are looking forward to collaborating with the University of Cincinnati through this Space Act Agreement,” said Thomas Davis. “It is a good opportunity for us to engage and leverage each other's capabilities and expertise on a wide breadth of important research topics.”

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Interim Dean Teik Lim adds that the partnership will focus on providing safe and secure integration of UAVs in the National Airspace System. 

“During the past two decades, unmanned aerial vehicles have proved themselves to be extremely capable for military applications,” said Lim. “We also have aerospace faculty who have worked on UAV research for a number of years and developed prototypes that are being geared toward firefighting, seek and rescue missions and other non-military applications.”

UC Vice President for Research William Ball said the SAA gives UC scientists access to the advanced facilities at NASA’s Ames Research Center. 

“Their facilities and software are state-of-the-art, and this opens up many opportunities for our researchers to gain access in shared collaboration,” said Ball. “Most importantly, it allows for collaboration between our faculty and students and world-class researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center.”

Ball pointed out that the potential for increased federal funding in these areas as a result of the collaborative agreement with NASA’s Ames Research Center is also “extremely strengthened.”

“The other major strength from this is the integration of our education program with NASA’s Ames Research Center,” said Ball. “We already have our first cooperative education student going to NASA’s Ames Research Center to work on the first project. This will open up new opportunities for many students to follow.

Neil Armstrong at a blackboard at the University of Cincinnati
UC's commemorative Armstrong website serves as a digital collection of his life and specifically his time at UC as a professor. The project by the UC Libraries/Archives was created by Carrie Hill-Harriss, Ted Baldwin and Kevin Grace.

To further preserve Armstrong’s accomplishments and specifically celebrate his years as a professor and researcher in aerospace engineering at the university, UC Libraries/Archives also created a dynamic commemorative website to share UC’s extensive digital collection of images, documents and correspondence from Armstrong’s career. 

“We hope that the website will serve both as a tribute to the life and achievements of Neil Armstrong as well as a place for learning and inspiration for students, scholars and anyone interested in the life and career of Mr. Armstrong,” said Xuemao Wang, Dean of UC Libraries and chair of the Neil Armstrong Commemorative Task Force. “Mr. Armstrong was a true American hero and remains an inspiration.” 

The Neil Armstrong UC Forward Innovation Award will be given to a team of outstanding students whose work creates transformative inventions, innovations or solutions with exemplary teamwork. 

A new scholarship opportunity also now exists through the College of Engineering and Applied Science for incoming undergraduate students in the aerospace engineering program. The funding for the scholarship is made possible by the generous giving from alumni who graduated from aerospace engineering, some of whom were taught by Armstrong in the 1970s.