SANDUSKY, Ohio — NASA’s Plum Brook Station now bears the name of one of Ohio’s greatest astronauts as it was officially renamed Wednesday the Neil Armstrong Test Facility.
Plum Brook is situated on 6,400 acres in Sandusky and is home to some of the world’s most powerful space simulation chambers that support the Artemis mission to return to the moon, making this a fitting tribute.
“Neil’s one giant leap for mankind was taken by a giant of a person,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “But the legacy continues to extend.”
The man behind this effort was Senator Rob Portman, a longtime friend of Armstrong’s who got emotional at this dedication that he flew up for only hours after casting a 4 a.m. vote in the Senate on the infrastructure package.
“How great it is to see his name here in Ohio where it belongs,” Portman said.
You might wonder why this took so long to happen. Well in a little-known story shared with News 5 two years ago, Portman said he actually first broached the idea with Armstrong in 2011.
“Plum Brook is just a geographic name and I think your name ought to be on it and he said, ‘You know Rob I appreciate that, but I’m really not interested, it’s not about me.’ It was just classic Neil Armstrong," Portman said.
Portman told News 5's John Kosich that it was the first time he recalled sharing the story of that conversation publicly and as they talked that day in 2019 he added this: “Since you raised it John, I may have to start thinking about it again, whether we should initiate another effort.”
Armstrong’s son Mark was out for a jog when his phone rang the next day.
“Got a call out of the blue from an unknown number,” Armstrong recalled. “Do I answer it, do I not answer? And I’m glad I did.”
Portman was also glad he didn’t take Armstrong’s no for an answer.
“If he were here he would not have been excited and that’s all the more reason to do it,” said Portman. “We’re not following his wishes, we’re following ours.”
And Armstrong’s son is glad they did.
“Maybe whereas Dad may not have wanted his name attached to something just because he didn’t feel like he deserved that," Armstrong said. "Honestly the family in retrospect is thrilled.”
Also on hand were the bill's sponsors in the House — Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur and Republicans Jim Jordan and Anthony Gonzalez. Senator Sherrod Brown, who co-sponsored the Senate legislation, was still in Washington.
Portman added the name change gives the facility instant notoriety, bearing one of the most powerful names in space exploration.