November 16, 2011
Astronauts Awarded With Congressional Gold Medals
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Astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were awarded with congressional gold medals on Tuesday.The Gold Medal is Congress' highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969, and Collins piloted Apollo 11's command module that landed them there.
"We stand on the shoulders of the extraordinary men we recognize today," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the ceremony. "Those of us who have had the privilege to fly in space followed the trail they forged."
"When, 50 years ago this year, President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon, to 'take longer strides' toward a 'great new American enterprise,' these men were the human face of those words," said Bolden. "From Mercury and Gemini, on through our landings on the Moon in the Apollo Program, their actions unfolded the will of a nation for the greater achievement of humankind."
Bolden said that five members of the most recent Astronaut Candidate Class were in attendance. He pointed them out and said that the new generation "will redefine space exploration in the years to come and continue to honor the legacy of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins."
Congress approved the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal Act in July 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.
The four astronauts also received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award.
Congress' first Gold Medal was given to George Washington in 1776.
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