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Shuttle program astronaut Rex Walheim to speak at the Petaluma Municipal Airport

  • PHOTO DATE: 02-11-11
    LOCATION: Bldg. 8, Room 272 - Photo Studio
    SUBJECT: Individual portrait of STS-135 Rex Walheim in ACES suit
    WORK ORDER: 00461-BS__REXWALHEIM_02-11-11

A pilot from a special type of aircraft lands in Petaluma on Saturday, Sept. 21 for a presentation that is sure to be out of this world.

Space shuttle astronaut Rex Walheim will give a talk on his adventures in space at 2 p.m. at the Petaluma Municipal Airport as part of Airport Display Day.

Walheim, one of NASA's top astronauts, has flown three missions, STS-110, STS-122 and STS-135, which was the 135th and final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. The mission was accomplished in 200 orbits of the Earth, traveling 5,284,862 miles in 12 days, 18 hours, 27 minuts and 56 seconds. A veteran astronaut, Walheim has logged more than 566 hours in space, including more than 36 hours of extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk time.

"This is pretty awesome," said Tom McGaw of the Petaluma Area Pilots Association, which is co-sponsoring the event with History Connection of Petaluma. "These astronauts get requests for appearances by the thousands, but he decided to come to Petaluma."

Joe Noriel of History Connection, who is also the former president of the Petaluma Museum, was instrumental in securing Walheim's visit to Petaluma.

"Joe has developed connections with NASA over the years through the current and past astronauts that have spoken for programs at the Petaluma Museum," said McGaw. Walheim is also a Bay Area resident, so between that and Joe Noriel's relationship with NASA, we've been able to get Walheim to come. We're very excited about it."

"This will be a great opportunity for an out of this world experience," said Noriel. "It is significant Rex comes to Petaluma, which has such a rich aviation history with Fred Wiseman's first airmail flight in 1911."

Walheim's visit coincides with the Petaluma Airports monthly Airport Display day, which begins at 10 a.m. There will be a variety of antique and modern aircraft available for viewing, along with other aviation related exhibits.

"People will have a chance to see some historic planes. Some of them are World War era biplanes." said McGaw. "Then we have some current models, as well as kit built airplanes the pilots built themselves. We have a FedEx plane that now flys in and out of our airport from Oakland to deliver packages, and it will be here on display, too."

Local flight schools, including the Petaluma Pilot Training Center, will have its state-of-the art next generation private airplanes available for viewing.

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