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Apollo 11 Astronauts Reunite for Anniv.07/20 09:14

Apollo 11 Astronauts Reunite for Anniv.07/20 09:14

   CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael 
Collins reunited Friday on the eve of the 50th anniversary of humanity's first 
moon landing.

   They gathered in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump, who got a 
rundown on his administration's plans to get astronauts back on the moon by 
2024 and then on to Mars in the 2030s.

   "We're bringing the glamour back" to the space program, Trump said.

   Both sons of the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the moon on 
July 20, 1969, also attended, as well as first lady Melania Trump, Vice 
President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

   The moon versus Mars debate as astronauts' next destination arose again 
Friday.

   The president asked if astronauts could get to Mars without first going back 
to the moon.

   Collins, 88, who circled the moon alone in the command module while 
Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Eagle, told the president that he 
supports going directly to Mars and bypassing the moon.

   "It seems to me Mars direct, who knows better than these people?" Trump 
noted.

   Bridenstine, though, stressed the importance of the moon as a training 
ground and noted that because of the planetary alignment, launches to Mars can 
occur only every 26 months and even then the trip is seven months each way.

   "What happens if you miss the timing? They're in deep trouble? Trump asked. 
"You don't want to be on that ship."

   Aldrin, meanwhile, said he's disappointed with the state of human space 
exploration the past 10 or 15 years. "We were able to achieve so much early," 
the 89-year-old said.

   Aldrin, whose specialty was orbital rendezvous, doesn't like NASA's idea for 
a small space station around the moon, called the Gateway, from which to stage 
lunar landings and, eventually, Mars trips. He noted that the Apollo 11 command 
module and attached lunar module went straight into lunar orbit and even 
separated and redocked around the moon.

   "We have the No. 1 rocket right now in the U.S. and we have the No. 1 
spacecraft, and they cannot get into lunar orbit with significant maneuvering 
capability," Aldrin pointed out.

   Trump directed Bridenstine to listen to the "other side."

   Aldrin and Armstrong, who died in 2012, landed on the Sea of Tranquility at 
4:17 p.m. on July 20, 1969. "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has 
landed," Armstrong radioed.

   Armstrong was the first to climb down the ladder, stepping onto the lunar 
surface at 10:56 p.m. His "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for 
mankind," is arguably the most famous space line of all time.

   The vice president is commemorating Saturday's anniversary at Florida's 
Kennedy Space Center, visiting the launch pad where Apollo 11 blasted off.

   Museums and towns across the country geared up for their own golden 
anniversary celebrations, including Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong's hometown that 
was serving up "cinnamoon pancakes" and "buckeye on the moon sundaes." The U.S. 
Postal Service, meanwhile, issued its "1969: First Moon Landing" Forever stamps 
Friday at Kennedy.

   NASA televised a two-hour show Friday afternoon remembering Apollo 11 but 
also looking forward to its future moon plans. At the end of the program, 
Bridenstine revealed the new logo for the moon program, called Artemis after 
the twin sister of Greek mythology's Apollo.

   Besides Wapakoneta and Kennedy, the program went live to Johnson Space 
Center in Houston, home to Mission Control; the U.S. Space and Rocket Center 
next door to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and the 
National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

   In Houston, Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham said the moon landings will 
be remembered hundreds of years from now and Armstrong, in particular, will go 
down in history.

   "Here we are 50 years later, and I never in my life could have projected 
this amount of interest and association with what we were doing back then," 
Cunningham said.

   In Wapakoneta, former astronaut Don Thomas recalled how he invited fellow 
Ohioan Armstrong to one of his four space shuttle launches in the 1990s. Not 
only did Armstrong show up, Thomas said the moonwalker met with him the day 
before liftoff and promised to stick around as long as it took the shuttle to 
fly.

   "It was the thrill of my life to have him there for the launch," Thomas said.


(KR)