Former astronaut Don Thomas speaks at Armstrong Air and Space Museum

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The Armstrong Air and Space Museum hosted a special talk from astronaut and Cleveland native Don Thomas.

Before Thomas spoke to the crowd about his experiences as an astronaut, he reflected with Your Hometown Stations about the very event that brings everyone out to Summer Moon Fest each year.

"Neil Armstrong walking on the moon is probably one of the most historic events for NASA and I think for our country and maybe for our civilization for planet Earth," says Thomas. "It was really an incredible moment, the first time humans leave planet Earth to go to another world."

The US has not been to the moon since 2011 but that does not mean NASA is not working to get back up there. Thomas says that the future of the space program is a new rocket being built by NASA, the Space Launch System, or SLS. This rocket will eventually put US astronauts back in orbit around the moon.

"This will be bigger and more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon back in 1969," says Thomas. "We’re building these, testing them right now. The first test launch is about a year and a half away. It’ll be unmanned, no astronauts on board. We’re just a handful of years away from having astronauts orbiting the moon once again."

It is exciting to hear that the SLS will help take astronauts to the moon, but Thomas says that is not all. He believes the new rocket will be pivotal in putting NASA boots on Mars, but it will not be the boots of any astronauts working now.

"Those astronauts that will be walking on Mars are not this generation; the astronauts that will be walking on Mars are some of the young students that I see here at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum," says Thomas. "I met many of them yesterday. They’re in middle school, they’re in elementary school right now. They have stars and a twinkle in their eye. I can see that excitement that I had when I watched Neil Armstrong walking on the moon."

Those twinkles and stars Don Thomas sees on the little faces in the museum tells him our future is in good hands and, just maybe, Ohio hands.

"The first American to orbit the Earth was from Ohio," says Thomas. "One of the first three humans to orbit the moon was from Ohio. The first man on the moon was from Ohio. How about the first person on Mars? What state should they come from?"

Thomas believes the answer to that is: Ohio.

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