On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville Wright took off in the Wright Flyer with Wilbur running beside him in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The premiere flight went an unprecedented 120 feet. But how did Neil Armstrong end up with the piece of wing now held in the UC collection?
Neil Armstrong — the man who become the first to walk on the moon — grew up in Ohio, like the Wrights. He admired the brothers and had similar aspirations to fly one day.
Armstrong came into possession of the artifacts through an arrangement with the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. He was asked to take remnants of the fabric and the propeller on the Apollo 11 mission — the first that would successfully land on the moon. Armstrong carried the pieces of the Wright Flyer along in his “personal preference kit,” a bag of significant belongings that each astronaut was allowed to load onto the lunar module, according to an article in Time.
After Armstrong’s death in 2012, his sons Mark and Rick Armstrong decided to donate some of them to various academic archives, including the University of Cincinnati Libraries.
“It is our hope,” says Mark Armstrong, “that this artifact, which harkens back to the heyday of our space program, as well as the very first moments of powered flight, will encourage innovation and inspire future generations of students to dream of ways to build a safer and stronger tomorrow.”