Nation celebrates 50th anniversary of 1st lunar footsteps

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A moonstruck nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first
footsteps on another world Saturday, gathering in record heat at races and other festivities to
commemorate Apollo 11’s "giant leap" by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Aldrin showed Vice President Mike Pence the launch pad where he flew to
the moon in 1969. At the same time halfway around the world, an American and two other astronauts
blasted into space from Kazakhstan on a Russian rocket. And in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio,
nearly 2,000 runners competed in "Run to the Moon" races.
"We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most historic event in my lifetime, maybe in
anybody’s lifetime, the landing on the moon," said 10K runner Robert Rocco, 54, of Centerville,
Ohio. "The ’60s were very turbulent. But that one bright wonderful moment was the space
The Eagle lunar lander, carrying Armstrong and Aldrin, landed on the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong was the first one out, proclaiming for the ages: "That’s one small step for man, one
giant leap for mankind."
"Few moments in our American story spark more pride than the Apollo 11 mission," President
Donald Trump said in a Space Exploration Day message. His statement reiterated the goal of sending
astronauts back to the moon within five years and taking "the next giant leap — sending Americans
to Mars."
Armstrong died in 2012, leaving Aldrin, 89, and command module pilot Michael Collins, 88, to mark the
golden anniversary. Both astronauts and the Armstrong family met with Trump in the Oval Office on
Friday, with Collins pushing for a direct mission to Mars and skipping the moon, and Aldrin expressing
dismay at the past few decades of human space exploration.
On Saturday, Pence, Aldrin and Armstrong’s older son, Rick, visited the Apollo 11 launch pad, now leased
by SpaceX, and the building now named for Armstrong where the astronauts suited up for liftoff on July
16, 1969.
In New York City, organizers moved a moon-landing party from Times Square into a hotel because of the
heat wave. Youngsters joined former space shuttle astronaut Winston Scott there, as a giant screen
showed the Saturn V rocket lifting off with the Apollo 11 crew in 1969.
Across the country in Seattle, Tim Turner was first in line at the Museum of Flight to see the Apollo 11
command module, Columbia, on display there. Collins orbited the moon alone in Columbia, as Armstrong and
Aldrin descended to the gray, desolate surface.
Turner, who drove 75 miles from his home in Poulsbo, Washington, recalled watching the lunar landing on
his family’s black-and-white TV in Tennessee, then going outside to gaze at the moon.
"There was just excitement," Turner said. "It was just the novelty of it all. Good grief!
It’s still amazing, the No. 1 feat of the 20th century, if not all of modern history, that first time
Countdowns were planned across the country later in the day at the exact moment of the Eagle’s landing on
the moon — 4:17 p.m. EDT — and Armstrong’s momentous step onto the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT. The
powdered orange drink Tang was back in vogue for the toasts, along with MoonPies, including a 55-pound
(25-kilogram), 45,000-calorie MoonPie at Kennedy’s One Giant Leap bash.
In the 100-degree heat (38 degrees Celsius) of Kazakhstan, an American, Italian and Russian, rocketed
into the night to the International Space Station. Only one of the three — cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov
— was alive at the time of Apollo 11. The three already living on the space station also were born long
after the moon landings.
The crew deliberately modeled its mission patch after Apollo 11’s: no astronaut names included to show
the universal nature of space flight. Morgan explained in a NASA interview that Apollo 11, and now his
flight, represents "an accomplishment of the world and not one single country."
AP reporters Angie Wang in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and Carla K. Johnson in Seattle, contributed to this report.

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