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Astronauts from Ohio recognized as part of new painting celebrations

Former astronaut Don Thomas signs Kevin Seymour's astronaut bookbag on Jan. 24, 2024. Seymour had more than a dozen signatures before.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Former astronaut Don Thomas signs Kevin Seymour's astronaut bookbag on Jan. 24, 2024. Seymour had more than a dozen signatures before.

A new painting that pays homage to Ohio’s big names in space exploration—including John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Judith Resnik—was mounted just off the Ohio Statehouse rotunda Thursday.

The piece is a permanent fixture, the first large-scale painting commissioned for the building in 66 years. One former astronaut said Wednesday he sees “Ohioans in Space” as both a tribute to his heroes and a test of future generations.

During his 44 days collectively in orbit, Cleveland born and raised astronaut Don Thomas said he saw everything from the Great Barrier Reef to the Amazon rainforest.

Thomas is retired from NASA now, and although he lives and teaches in Maryland, he said he’s rooting for the next generation of Ohio astronauts. The Buckeye state has long outshone others in sheer numbers.

“I attribute that to the great role models. The John Glenns, the Neil Armstrongs, the Jim Lovells, the Judy Resniks that are out there,” Thomas said in an interview.

Thomas remembers the butterflies he felt on launch mornings—like the restraints coming down before “one of the great rollercoasters at Cedar Point.”

“Any astronaut who tells you that they’re not scared, they’re either lying or they’re crazy,” Thomas said.

But he said nothing is more exciting. Thomas, who went to children's events and hearings throughout the day at the Statehouse with fellow former astronauts Mike Good and Carl Walz, said he cares about motivating young students. He wants them to find excitement in math and science—and rockets.

“Maybe they become that first person to set foot on Mars,” he said. “I would be so proud to see an Ohioan participating on that mission.”

Toledo-based artist Bill Hinsch was selected for the milestone mission in early 2023. Although his work is already hung in the Pentagon and at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, he said this one felt “amazing.”

“That kind of a legacy, most artists don't have that unless you're in a museum somewhere,” Hinsch said. “But this is a museum, and so to have that is a distinct honor.”

Sketches and drafts, a color study, and then another eight months of work—or roughly 1,000 hours—were poured into Hinsch’s painting. Much of Thursday, he sat among a number of white folding chairs and watched in the rotunda as workers on scaffolding prepared to hang the nine-foot by 12-foot oil piece.

Charles Moses, chairman of the Capitol Square Foundation, said in July the painting would cost $150,000, but that the foundation was raising additional funds to potentially be used for future pieces.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at
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