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Why would you want to have lunch with an astronaut?

July 10, 2012

Children may still enter for an opportunity to share a meal with Space Shuttle Endeavour pilot Col. Gregory H. Johnson on July 20.

Organizers of the Run to the Moon are asking just that question of children ages 7 to14 in order to pick a couple of Wapakoneta youth to share a meal with Space Shuttle Endeavour pilot Col. Gregory H. Johnson on Friday, July 20, the 43rd anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.

Entry forms for the contest are running in the Wapakoneta Daily News, with a Saturday deadline for entries. The winners are to be determined by their answers to this question: “If you could ask Astronaut Greg Johnson one question, what would it be, and why?”

“We want to give kids the chance to meet a real live astronaut,” said Amy Kentner, long-time organizer of the Run to the Moon and the force behind inviting Johnson to Wapakoneta. “When’s the last time we had a real live astronaut here to meet kids?”

Col. Johnson is retired from the U.S. Air Force but his missions as pilot on Endeavour were from March 11 - 26, 2008, and May 16 - June 1, 2011. Both missions visited the International Space Station. In addition to his role as pilot, Johnson was the robotic arm operator for both Endeavour and the space station. He has completed nearly 500 Earth orbits and has traveled more than 12.5 million miles in space.

Kentner said Johnson plans to be in Wapakoneta for 24 hours and his schedule is packed. Once he arrives in the city about 11 a.m. on June 20, he will be given a tour of Armstrong’s childhood home on Benton Street, the guest of owner Karen Tullis. Lunch is to be served there, with one of the contest winners joining him to dine there with eight other guests.

Johnson plans to take a tour of the Armstrong Museum at 1:30 p.m. and the public is invited to be a part of that experience with the price of admission to the museum. At 2:30 p.m., he is scheduled to give a presentation in the Astro Theater, which will include his experiences in space and at the space station, his crews and his career. A second tour of the museum with Johnson is planned for 4 p.m. followed by a brief meet and greet autograph session at 5 p.m. An invitation-only dinner is planned for the early evening and provides the second opportunity to share a meal with Johnson.

On “Race Day,” July 21, Johnson is scheduled to be a part of the 8 a.m. opening ceremonies —  and you don’t have to be a runner to be on hand for that. He is to fire the starting gun following the dramatic race-opening recording, Kentner said.

The awards — all signed by the astronaut — are to be distributed starting at 9:50 a.m. and after handling that task, Johnson plans to be on hand for questions and for signing racers’ shirts and race bibs. He leaves the city at 11:30 a.m., when he heads to the airport to hop a plane to Geneva.

“This is such a big deal for us to have an astronaut to help us with the Run to The Moon,” Kentner said. “He’s signing all the awards and is giving so much of his time to meet local people. This is going to be a great two days. I really want people to come to the museum, and come to the race to meet him.”

Contest entry forms will be included in today and Wednesday’s editions of the Wapakoneta Daily News. Deadline for entries is Saturday. For race information, contact Kentner at 419-305-5193. Run to the Moon is a part of the Summer Moon Festival.

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