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On Moon-Landing Anniversary, Obama Meets with - and Praises - Apollo 11 Crew

President Obama poses with Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong in the Oval Office on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

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.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 20, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
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Here's the relevant part of his comments, as posted on

"I should note, just personally, I grew up in Hawaii, as many of you know, and I still recall sitting on my grandfather's shoulders when those capsules would land in the middle of the Pacific and they'd get brought back and we'd go out and we'd pretend like they could see us as we were waving at folks coming home."

Not the most eloquent way to put it, but it sure sounds to me like he's trying to say he'd watch them coming back in to port.

Obama obviously isn't above lying when it serves his agenda, but in this case it was just a sloppy reporter not doing her job properly, and a lazy editor letting her get away with it.

Posted by: aneidlinger | July 21, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Adalie, this is a moment for ALL of America to unite in appreciation of one of the greatest achievements of all humankind. To actually land humans on the Moon 235,000 miles away and then get them back to Earth safely is mind-boggling. You demonstrate pure pettiness trying to turn this into partisan politics, especially when it's the article that gets the details wrong, not Obama.

Posted by: zvelf | July 21, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Obama obviously didn't watch capsules land in the Pacific 1,000 miles away. What he did see was the astronauts returning to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Navy ships. His grandfather may very well have put the 10 year old Obama on his shoulders so he could see over the crowd. reported it like this:

As a boy in Hawaii, Obama recalled, he would go out with his grandfather to welcome back astronauts from missions that concluded with Pacific Ocean landings.

This article is in error about what he said (notice they didn't use quotes).

Whenever I've read smears about Obama, they always turn out to be false when you check them out. Why don't you assume he's telling the truth until proven otherwise?

Posted by: divtune | July 20, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

FTA: "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." When I first heard this, the old fib-o-meter started ringing, just like it did when Hillary claimed to have been ducking gunfire. As I understand it, Obama was living with his mom and stepfather in Indonesia between 1967 and 1971. That roughly leaves 1962 or 63 to 1966 when he might have both been small enough to sit on his grandfather's shoulders yet conceivably remember doing so. During those years, the wikipedia splashdown list includes only about 2 or 3 anywhere near Hawaii. Those were at least 1,000 miles north of Hawaii. So Obama. What was there to watch?

Posted by: adalie | July 20, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes it seems as though our nation has descended into mediocrity. However flawed society used to be, you have to admit it was also capable of greatness. We couldn't do Apollo today even if we wanted to. We're too busy hyperventilating about our bread and circuses. We can't even do the Depression right.

These days we simply react to things. We've become passive and insular, more concerned about protecting our horde of crap than doing anything adventurous with it. Hopefully we kick ourselves in the pants before we become the next 15th-century China.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 20, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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