Astronaut Rex Walheim visits Quail Park Retirement Village

FRESNO, Calif.

Astronaut Rex Walheim paid the Quail Park Retirement Village a visit to celebrate its 10 year anniversary.

Rex Walheim's father, lives at the Visalia facility. This was not his first visit. But, it is the first time he's been back since taking part in NASA's final mission.

From live music, to fine food, the 10 year anniversary at Visalia's Quail Park Retirement Village Thursday was a well-orchestrated event. But, it was Astronaut Rex Walheim, dressed in his iconic blue flight suit, who took center stage.

Colonel Rex Walheim said, "And sure enough, they were able to say the weather is close enough, we're gonna allow you to launch today."

Walheim grew up in the Bay Area, and has been with NASA since 1996. He's traveled to space three times, including the American shuttle program's final flight back in July of this year.

Colonel Rex Walheim said, "It was a neat thing to be a part of. It was also a little bit hard you know because everybody loves the space program and a lot of people lost their job at the end of the shuttle program."

During that mission, Walheim brought several momentos with him on board Atlantis. Among them, his father's World War II pilot wings. "And, I think they actually flew on another mission, so we've done that before but it's nice to have something from people that mean something to you."

He also took this good-luck banner, which residents at Quail Park signed for him before the launch. "And so you can see, it made it all the way to space."

Thursday, Walheim took time to greet people and sign pictures.

Verna Barber said, "Oh yes, it's very exciting. That's as close to space as I'll ever get."

Lon Walheim, 87, says, the excitement of having a son who's an astronaut hasn't faded. "Well, I think it's great."

Rex's brother, Lance agrees.

Lance walheim said, "He works really hard at what he does, like all the astronauts, and I'm glad everybody is as proud of him as I am."

Walheim says he'll continue to travel and share his adventures. But, his main focus, is getting back to work. This time, on the ground. "So, I'm gonna enjoy working for NASA helping develop these rockets get us through this time where it's uncertain until we have a new capability."

On Friday, Walheim will speak to students at his Alma Mater, UC Berkeley. He'll also present Cal's football team with one of their jerseys he brought with him to space.

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