On Moon-Landing Anniversary, Obama Meets with - and Praises - Apollo 11 Crew
By Cheryl W. Thompson
Forty years to the day after their historic moon landing, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin met with President Obama in the Oval Office this afternoon.
Obama praised the trio for their "heroism, calm under pressure" and "grace."
"I think that all of us recall the moment in which mankind finally was untethered from this planet and was able to explore the stars; the moment in which we had one of our own step on the moon and leave that imprint that is there to this day," the president said.
The eight-day mission was commanded by Armstrong, who, along with Aldrin, stepped out of their Eagle landing craft, planted an American flag and saluted it. They then talked by radiophone 240,000 miles away to then-President Richard M. Nixon. Armstrong described the moon as "pretty, like the desert in the Southwestern United States." Its surface was powdery and sprinkled with grains of black dust.
"The country continues to draw inspiration from what you've done," Obama said after meeting with the Apollo 11 crew.
The president recalled that as a boy living in Hawaii, he would perch on his grandfather's shoulders and watch the space capsules land in the Pacific Ocean. "We'd go out and we'd pretend like they could see us as we were waving at folks coming home," he said. "And I remember waving American flags and my grandfather telling me that the Apollo mission was an example of how Americans can do anything they put their minds to."
Obama said the men "inspired an entire generation of scientists and engineers," and added that he was confident NASA would continue to be "inspirational."
"I think it's fair to say that the touchstone for excellence in exploration and discovery is always going to be represented by the men of Apollo 11," he said.
Posted at 4:14 PM ET on Jul 20, 2009
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