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'Ohioans in Space' mural to recognize state's astronauts in capitol

July 11, 2023

— The U.S. state that has produced the fourth largest number of astronauts is set to honor four of its most accomplished space explorers with the addition of a new mural in its capitol.

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus will soon permanently exhibit an oil painting honoring the achievements of Ohioans in space travel and exploration. The 9-foot-tall by 12-foot-wide (2.7-by-3.7-meter) mural is set to be installed inside the east stairway of the Rotunda next year.

"Ohioans in Space," created by Bill Hinsch, depicts four of Ohio's 26 astronauts, as a well as a NASA flight director who also came from the state. Selected for their "achieving real firsts," the artwork pictures John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth; Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon; James "Jim" Lovell, the first astronaut to fly into space four times and first to fly to the moon twice; and Judith "Judy" Resnik, who was among the first woman to be selected by NASA to fly into space.

Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio, and after becoming a Mercury astronaut, represented his home state as a U.S. Senator for 24 years. Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta and, after commanding the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission in 1969, became an engineering professor in Cincinnati.

Born in Cleveland, Lovell flew on Apollo 8, the first crewed mission to orbit the moon, and then survived the "successful failure" that was Apollo 13, after an explosion midway to the moon turned the mission from one of landing on the lunar surface to surviving the trip back to Earth. Resnik was born in Akron and became the first Jewish American to fly into space before being tragically lost aboard the ill-fated flight of space shuttle Challenger in 1986.

Hinsch's preliminary rendering for the artwork also includes Toledo-born Eugene Kranz, who as a NASA flight director led Mission Control when Armstrong landed and Lovell "lost the moon."

The concept for the painting, which Hirsch unveiled at the statehouse in a smaller, 30-by-40-inch (76.2-by-01.6-centimeter) format on June 28, also includes renderings of the Atlas rocket and Friendship 7 capsule flown by Glenn; Saturn V and Apollo spacecraft that transported Armstrong and Lovell to the moon; and the space shuttle, which was Resnik's ride into Earth orbit.

"It's been an absolute honor doing this painting. Although the 'big one' hasn't yet commenced, I've already painted it night after night in my head to the point it should paint itself," said Hinsch. "I've attempted to capture the poetry of these great Ohio astronauts, their successes, their failures, their striving upward to the heavens."

When installed, "Ohioans in Space" will be displayed opposite "Wilbur and Orville Wright and Their Accomplishments," a mural of the same size by Dwight Mutchler that was unveiled in 1959 to pay tribute to the inventors of the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air flying machine. Hinsch's mural will now continue the Wrights' legacy to those Ohioans who reached beyond the sky.

"This painting will be a stellar addition to the public art at the Ohio Statehouse," said Laura Battocletti, executive director of Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB). "Bill Hinsch is showing the human faces of our space explorers. We are looking forward to installing the large version of this historic painting next year."

Hinsch was commissioned to create the mural by the CSRAB after being selected by an art committee aided by the Ohio Arts Council. The painting is being funded by private donations, overseen by the Capitol Square Foundation.

"Bill captured Ohio's profound history in space flight," said Charles Moses, chair of the Capitol Square Foundation, "The painting tells the story of Ohio's influence from the beginning of human space flight through the shuttle program, and looking on to Mars."

Hinsch, who lives in Perrysburg, Ohio, has previously created artwork that hangs in the Pentagon and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. He was the staff artist at the Toledo Blade Newspaper and art director of Toledo Magazine.

Only New York, California and Texas has produced more astronauts than Ohio, though when broken out by city, Cleveland tops the countrywide list. Other astronauts from the "Birthplace of Aviation" include Apollo 7 pilot Donn Eisele (Columbus), record-setting space station commander Suni Williams (Euclid) and commercial astronaut Larry Connor (who was born in New York but was living in Dayton when he paid to fly to the International Space Station).


Artist Bill Hinsch unveils a rendering of "Ohioans in Space," his new mural to be installed in the Ohio Statehouse in 2024. (CSRAB)

Bill Hinsch's rendering for his mural "Ohioans in Space" highlights the accomplishments of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Judy Resnik, as well flight director Eugene Kranz. (CSRAB)

NASA "Ohio Astronauts" lithograph. Click here for a key to identify all 25 Ohio astronauts pictured. (NASA)

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