Astro Walt Cunningham

September 2015 visit of Astronaut Walt Cunningham

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 1.



Courtesy of Express & Star Newspapers

A brief roundup of the Walt Cunningham series of events –

Day 1.

Walt Cunningham and his lovely wife Dot jetted into Heathrow Terminal 5 on the morning of 23 September. They had been delayed on the ground in Houston for some three and a half hours. A car journey to Walsall in the West Midlands followed.

We arrived at the Town Hall to some waiting reporters. A photo shoot and a video interview for the Express & Star newspaper followed.

A short journey by train into the heart of Birmingham had been arranged for Walt to be interviewed on BBC radio WM.

Once out of the interview another interview this time over the phone with the Walsall Advertiser.

Back then to Walsall by train and then a short car journey to the Walsall Astronomical Society who meet regularly at the social club of Rushall Olympic football club. Their regular meeting had been brought forward and they had arranged for a display of lunar meteorites and NASA moon rock on loan for an Apollo themed evening. Club members did not know that Walt Cunningham was an invited guest.

Walt answered questions from the group for about an hour; members took full advantage of their special guest with a broad range of questions from Apollo to climate change, Mars missions and beyond. If you know Walt he pulls no punches and tells it like it is.

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 2.



Courtesy of Express & Star Newspapers

Day 2.

An early start up to the National Space Centre at Leicester. Here Walt was given a brief tour of the centre. Start of the first signing session of his book, the All American Boys.

A prearranged visit followed where staff and pupils from the Whitfield Valley Primary Academy, Stoke-on-Trent asked numerous questions to Walt he answered all of them and was keen to engage with the children and ask them a few questions of his own.The school motto – Be the best you can be struck a particular chord with Walt.

Walt and his wife Dot perform charity work with the Be An Angel Foundation at home in the U.S. and enjoy interacting with children.

A brief stop for lunch and Walt was into the Sir Patrick Moore planetarium, a NASA video was used, it described the start of the space race and linked the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Programs. Lasting approximately 15 minutes the video connected the Apollo era and the ensuing Q&A session nicely together.

Walt on top form answered all of the prearranged questions from attendees and eagerly followed this with random questions from the floor. This could easily have run over as Walt was keen to answer everyone who had a question and there were plenty of them.

The presentation was followed by a further book signing and then a photo shoot with the Leicester Mercury newspaper.

Another photo op this time with National Space Academy Space Engineering students. They are currently on a course, details of which can be found here:  National Space Academy they had attended Walt's lecture/Q&A and were excited to meet him and have a photo with him.

A rest day in readiness for ‘Dine with an Astronaut’ evening event at the Village Hotel in Walsall, sparkling wine and canapes, with a professional photo opportunity, dinner followed by a brief auction and autograph signing.

Walt Cunningham Visit Day 4.

Walt Cunningham with BBC Radio WM Paul Franks, courtesy of the BBC.

An audience with an Astronaut – Walt Cunningham at Walsall Town Hall. A photoshoot opportunity was followed by a brief introduction for Walt.

He presented us with a new lecture entitled ‘ The Golden Age of Apollo’. Walt drew on historical aspects of the sixties and the place of the Apollo program within that. He examined why we explore, the need to explore and the benefits to society as a whole.

A short Q&A session followed with an autograph signing for anyone interested, which was everyone, Walt patiently signed to the last.

Trade stands from Spaceboosters Limited our main sponsor were available to peruse, so to a stand managed by space author Dave Shayler and his wife Bel from Astro Information Service (AIS) with a selection of books, CD’s and some calendars. There was also a display promoting the Walsall Astronomical Society.

What the papers say!

We had some good newspaper coverage before and after the event, some of it featured here. We did not manage to get the story from the Leicester Mercury so have included their online coverage here.

A Big Thank you

A big thank you to everyone that came and supported the various events, without your support they cannot happen (we’ll keep in touch and will send out timely information regarding our next ‘Astronaut event’ we have had some very positive feedback during and after each event.

Thank you to Walt Cunningham and his wife Dot, without whom there was no event.

Thank you to my long suffering wife (Bryar) and our two daughters Kirstie and Nikki, thank you for your assistance with everything; it was appreciated even when the stress was beginning to show.

Walsall Town Hall, smooth operators from beginning to end, lots of advice, much of it taken on-board. Special thanks to Sunita, Sue and Sofia (thanks to the Lord Mayor and Consort for attending), thank you to all of the staff, security and catering included. The Town Hall is a great venue, so much history and it can now add an Apollo astronaut to its list of visitors.

Walsall Astronomical Society –  I only returned to the fold in recent months, some familiar faces and many new ones. Thanks to all of the members that attended and supported with special thanks to Carl, Alan and Paul who pulled out all of the stops to keep Walt’s visit a secret and obtaining the Moon rock was fantastic  too.

National Space Centre, another smooth operation. Nothing was too much trouble and you planned our visit from beginning to end. Again too many to mention, a very professional team led by Malika, Anu, Rebeca and Zoe. Like a precision watch.

Village  Hotel Walsall, professional set up and a lovely Hotel. Thanks to Nisha, Wedding/Events coordinator and to Mike and the team for making the dinner enjoyable and relaxed.

Professional photo team – thank you James and Karen – quick, patient, professional operation. Brilliant photo backdrop, although I say it myself, photos produced on time for autographs to be obtained on the night, a great and lasting  memento.

We could not do everything on our own so were grateful for the assistance of Andrew and Julie McDermott (they are old pro’s at it now) and Paul Bradbury. Thanks to Nikki and Chris Lee (stalwart raffler's and astro-teddy promoters) and to table lugger and general furniture re-arranger Ian Arkesden. Thanks also to Katy for helping out on the trade stand.

Dave and Bel Shayler support appreciated.

Raffle prizes were mostly collected by Kirstie and kindly donated.