WAPAKONETA — The Armstrong Air and Space Museum was packed Friday afternoon as guests were taking the chance to enjoy the Apollo 11 50th anniversary while also soaking up some A/C.
Friday’s events at the museum were headlined by a live appearance on NASA TV’s “NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future,” providing viewers a quick glimpse into Neil Armstrong’s hometown.
While additional segments were broadcast at other locations throughout the country, the museum had meet and greets with astronauts Michael Good, Mike Mallory, Don Thomas, Sunita Williams, Robert Springer and Greg Johnson.
Lauree Bystrom and Becki Numbers Gobert drove from Nashville overnight to make it to the meet and greets. Gobert is a Wapakoneta native and brought along fellow space enthusiast and friend Bystrom.
“If you’re from Neil Armstrong’s hometown, you’ve got to come back, it’s not an option,” Gobert explained. “That’s why we left (Thursday) night, so we could get here because we wanted to meet the astronauts.”
But Gobert plans to return to some of her favorite spots, like LaGrande Pizza and Kewpee, while in town, and also tried out moon beer. True to their roots, Gobert’s daughter, Emily, is studying to be an astronaut at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but was unable to attend the homecoming.
“It’s about the whole atmosphere,” she said. “I mean, there’s excitement in the town — it’s a small town, and everybody is excited about it.”
Dean Walther, of Columbus, made his first trip to the museum Friday with son Austin, 7, and father-in-law Robert Reed in tow.
“I work in the aviation industry as an air traffic controller, so I’ve always been hugely interested in all the Apollo stuff,” Walther said. “We were actually just watching all of it for this. We’re kind of geeks in that way.”
Austin said his favorite part was seeing the spacecraft at the museum after watching those movies.
“I’m excited to bring my dad back here. I remember him showing me photos he took of the television of Buzz (Aldrin) and Neil (Armstrong) walking around,” Dean said. “If I could go back in history to see one event, this would be it.”
Austin said he’s looking more at a career in baseball or paleontology, but Leyna Garth, 8, was ready for takeoff in her NASA spacesuit costume.
“It started off she wanted to build the rockets, but then she decided she wants to be in them,” her father Kyle explained. Leyna was most surprised to see how cramped the spacecraft were, she said, but that didn’t seem to give her doubt.
The Garths also brought along family visiting from South Africa.
“They wanted to come up here (to Ohio to visit), and we thought it would be fitting to come here when we had the opportunity, especially considering it’s the anniversary.”
Activities will continue at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.