Mark Mills-Thysen of Sebastopol was 11 years old when he went to see Gherman Stepanovich Titov, the second human to orbit the earth, at the Merchants Exchange Club in San Francisco in 1961.
So, it was only natural that he would bring his 11-year-old son, Daniel Sam, to the Petaluma Historical Museum on Saturday to see legendary American astronaut Russell L. "Rusty" Schweickart.
Schweickart, who became a NASA astronaut in 1963, served as the lunar module pilot during the Apollo 9 mission, spending 241 hours in space in March 1969.
The mission was the third manned Apollo series flight and the first manned flight of the lunar module leading up to the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July that same year.
"It's not every day an astronaut comes to town," said Mills-Thysen, who craned his neck to see over a crowd of about 100 people waiting to hear Schweickart speak as part of a new exhibit at the museum.
The crowd was so large that the lecture by the 75-year-old Schweickart had to be moved to a building adjacent to the museum, and even then, some could not get in.
Schweickart, who lives in Sonoma, spoke about his experiences flying in space on Apollo 9, as well as his work with the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit organization made up of astronauts and scientists who are trying to predict and prevent catastrophic asteroid impacts on Earth.
Before his lecture, Schweickart said most of the lectures he gives are to professional or technical and scientific audiences.
He said he was impressed with the exhibition of deep-space photography digitally enhanced by artist Michael Benson. The work, "Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes," is a traveling Smithsonian Institution presentation and the Petaluma stop is the only California engagement.
The source material of the exhibit is collected from more than 40 years of robotic space missions. The exhibit features 35 large-scale framed prints and 59 individual photographs.